Friday, January 9, 2015

Hoffman's Bicycle>Bycycle 1968-69 (The Secret Life Of Dan Healy)

A Berkeley Barb ad for the New Orleans House, a club at 1505 San Pablo. Howard Wales and A.B. Skhy headlined the weekend shows on October 18 and 19, 1968, and Hoffman's Bicycle opened for them. 
A co-conspirator and I have a long-running project tracking the history of rock music in Berkeley, CA in the late 1960s. As part of our research, we have created performance lists for a number of key venues in the city. Many of the performers at these long-ago places are quite obscure. Over the years, a key part of our research has been identifying the performers in these bands, some of which only played a few times. Patience is rewarded, however, with occasional surprises, like the time that the band Deacon And The Suprelles emptied the house at their Mandrake's debut, until only one patron was left at the bar. The a departing friend told the band that an armed robber was in the house, and the police were clearing out the club in order to arrest him.

Nonetheless, certain intriguing mysteries remain. One nagging curiosity had always been the band Hoffman's Bicycle, who had opened for A.B. Skhy for one weekend at the New Orleans House on October 18 and 19, 1968. This cleverly named group, with a whiff of psychedelia and intrigue, could be found in no other bookings that I was aware of. However, a recent interview with the long-time chief engineer of Fantasy Studios, Jim Stern, revealed some tantalizing details about Hoffman's Bicycle. For one thing, they subsequently changed their named to "Bycycle," with a "y," a group whose name has been spotted on a variety of Bay Area adds and handbills in the 1968-69 period. More importantly, Stern revealed another long-lost fact: the bass player for Hoffman's Bicycle was none other than future Grateful Dead soundman Dan Healy. Suddenly the history of Hoffman's Bicycle and its successor Bicycle look very intriguing indeed.

Van Morrison's 1973 album, Hard Nose The Highway, engineered by Jim Stern at Fantasy Studios in Berkely
Jim Stern and Dan Healy
Scholar and journalist Jake Feinberg recently interviewed engineer Jim Stern on his show. Usually, Feinberg interviews exceptional musicians, not always best sellers but of the sort revered by their peers and serious fans. Stern was just one of those back-of-the-album names, someone you faintly recall without precisely remembering his specific contribution. Over the course of the amazing 3-hour interview, however, Stern turns out to have played a critical role in the history of Bay Area music. Stern was a professional drummer with an engineering degree, so he ended up working at Fantasy Studios in Oakland in the 60s. When Fantasy opened its new studios at 10th and Parker in Berkeley, Stern was asked to become chief engineer, and his career switched over permanently to the other side of the glass. Stern, now retired, produced many jazz and rock albums over the decades, including work for Van Morrison, McCoy Tyner and too many others to count.

Stern's own history is pretty interesting, and Feinberg gets Stern talking about his long gone past. Feinberg asked Stern how he had gotten to know Dan Healy, and the story was revealing indeed. Stern grew up in the Haight-Ashbury in the 1950s, and he went to San Francisco State in the mid-60s to get his engineering degree. On weekends, Stern played drums in "Top 40" cover bands around San Francisco. He knew the Grateful Dead from around the Haight, and even jammed with them on occasion at 710 Ashbury, apparently under the most casual of circumstances, so he was socially connected to the band and they knew of his drumming skills.

When the Grateful Dead opened The Carousel Ballroom, one of their ideas was to have regular "Tuesday Night Jams." While we have a few partial tapes, our knowledge of these events is a little sketchy. There seems to have only been three such events, on May 21 and 22 and June 4, 1968 (the Carousel closed shortly after). For one of them, Bob Weir called up Stern and asked him to be the "house drummer" for the jam. Although the syntax is a bit obscure, it appears that Healy was at this Tuesday jam, with his group Hoffman's Bicycle. In any case, although Stern may have already known Healy as a fellow engineer, he was the one who revealed in the interview that Healy was the bassist for Hoffman's Bicycle, and that they later changed their name to Bycycle.

The diagram of the Grateful Dead's 1974 sound system, "The Wall Of Sound." Dan Healy was a principal architect of this remarkable system, which was light years ahead of its contemporaries.
The Dan Healy Story, As Told By Dan Healy
Dan Healy is rightly famous as one of the principal audio engineers of the Grateful Dead, recording and producing many of their albums, and a crucial architect of their amazing live sound. As such, Healy has been interviewed numerous times, so the narrative of his 60s career is generally well-known. However, while I think everything we generally know about Healy is true, it appears that he left Hoffman's Bicycle out entirely. At various times in the 80s, Healy played live with a group called The Healy-Treece Band, so he had another life as a musician, going back to the 1960s. He simply seems to have left his 60s band out of any narrative, and no one has ever asked him about it.

Very briefly, the Healy story was that he was an engineer for Commercial Recorders in San Francisco in the mid-60s. After recording commercial jingles and the like during the daytime, he would sometimes sneak in his musician friends after hours to record demos (possibly including the Grateful Dead). Healy also was part of the tiny underground of FM radio enthusiasts, providing technical support to the various hipsters broadcasting interesting stuff on the FM band during odd hours of the night.

Marin real estate agent Gino Cippolina had gotten Healy a cheap rental on a Sausalito houseboat in late 1965. On the next boat over were some long hairs who included Cippolina's son, and they soon formed a band called Quicksilver Messenger Service. When the Quick's equipment broke during rehearsal, they discovered that the friendly engineer next door could fix everything. Several months later, at a Fillmore concert, soon after soundman Owsley Stanley had stopped working with the Dead because he had to focus on other business interests, Phil Lesh's bass broke. Healy came up from the crowd (probably invited by John Cippolina) and fixed it, impressing the band. Afterwards, Healy told Garcia that he didn't like the sound, and Garcia challenged him: "do you think you can do better?" As it happened, Healy did think he could do better, so he became the Dead's audio engineer, and proved that he was right.

After recording and producing Anthem Of The Sun with the Grateful Dead, Healy left the group to become a producer and engineer for Mercury Records. I'm not certain what his status was with Mercury--whether he was on salary or some sort of free agent--but the record business was coming to San Francisco in a big way. Starting in mid-1968, Healy engineered and/or produced a variety of records for Mercury and others, including albums by Doug Sahm, Harvey Mandel and other acts. He eventually went on to work with Quicksilver in 1969 and '70, working on three of their Capitol albums (Shady Grove, Just For Love and What About Me). Owsley had returned to his seat at the Dead's soundboard in mid-1968, but after a variety of legal problems Owsley had ended up in jail in July 1970. Once again, with Owsley gone, the Grateful Dead's live sound deteriorated, Healy criticized it, and he was invited back to fix it.

All of the above is relatively well-known in Deadhead circles, and Healy has commented on various bits and pieces of it over the years. Certainly the timeline and the backs of numerous albums document Healy's career as an engineer and producer in San Francisco in the late 60s. Yet Healy has never, to my knowledge, mentioned that he was in a band back then, much less their name.

The Leaves single "Hey Joe," on Mira Records, Pat Boone's label. The leaves on the cover were reputedly stylized marijuana leaves. Draw your own conclusions. 
Albert Hofmann's Bicycle
In the 60s, drugs and drug culture were a mystery to the mainstream, and all sorts of in-jokes were promulgated on the music industry. A rockin' Hollywood band called The Leaves, who had had a 1966 hit with "Hey Joe," had a stylized marijuana leaf on the cover of their first record, on Pat Boone's label, no less. A Colorado band called The Rainy Daze had a big hit in 1967 with a song whose chorus went "Old dogs can learn new tricks/When the streets are lined with bricks/Of Acapulco Gold." No one figured it out until after the single had sold 150,000 copies, when it was abruptly banned. 

Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann--with one "f" and two "n", unlike Abbie--had discovered LSD-25 as early as 1938. However, on April 19, 1943---the day before 4/20!--Hofmann experimented with the drug, and as he felt the effects of it, he rode home on his bicycle (wartime restrictions prevented the use of his car, and a good thing, too--what would Hofmann have done at a blue light?). Thus his bicycle ride was the first intentional acid trip. There was no Wikipedia in the 60s, but Albert Hofmann and his bicycle ride were known in an underground way, so the implications of a band called Hoffman's Bicycle--even mispelled--would have been instantly recognizable in places like Berkeley or San Francisco. Any band with a name like that would be pretty consciously wearing a psychedelic nametag, even if it wasn't overt in a newspaper listing.
Dan Healy was the "Executive Engineer" for the Grateful Dead's album Anthem Of The Sun, released in July 1968

Dan Healy As Grateful Dead Soundman, 1967-68
It is a truism of Grateful Dead history that Healy took over as the Dead's soundman after Owsley left. Yet what did he really do? I don't think Healy went on the road with them. Now, Healy probably attended the local concerts, and he may have gone along for the occasional out-of-town event, but he doesn't seem to have been part of the 1967 tours. Healy didn't go to New York in either the Summer of 1967 or at the end that year, for example, as far as I know. I think Healy acted as a sort of consultant, hotwiring gear and solving technical problems. 

Yet was Healy on the payroll? It's not really clear. Certainly the Dead had little money, and even if Healy was getting a few bucks from the band, he probably still had to freelance as an engineer on the side. Healy's great contribution to the early Grateful Dead was acting as engineer on the Anthem Of The Sun sessions. On the album, Healy is listed as "Executive Engineer." Healy's legend was cemented when he helped manage the multiple tape recordings that were merged together for side two. 

Healy had effectively taken over as Chief Engineer of the Grateful Dead when Owsley had departed in about August 1966. Bob Matthews seemed to be the band's house sound man, until he was fired in December 1967. By early 1968, Owsley's other business interests had put him in serious legal trouble, and he returned to the Grateful Dead fold. In particular, Owsley seems to have played a big role in setting up the sound system of the Carousel, while Healy was working on Anthem over at Columbus Recorders. By the Summer of '68, Owsley was back on board as the Grateful Dead's soundman on the road. Owsley had also effectively become the chief engineer for the Dead, whatever exactly that meant. Healy seems to have separated from the Dead right after Anthem was completed.

Both Owsley and Dan Healy are legendary figures in the Grateful Dead firmament, yet it is never remarked upon that they never really worked together. Neither ever bad-mouthed the other for the record, to my knowledge, but there seems to have only been room for one King on the throne. Healy started working with the Dead when Owsley was otherwise engaged. When Owsley returned, Healy finished the Anthem project and departed (McNally merely says [p.276] "Healy had left the band to work with Quicksilver in Hawaii," which misstates Healy's work with the Quick by a year). When Healy reappeared at the end of 1970, Owsley was in jail. Healy returned in 1971, and Owsley did not get out of jail until mid-72. Upon Owsley's release, it is generally told that "Owsley could not find a role" on the Dead's crew, but it is hard not to draw the conclusion that Healy had the scepter, and Owsley was no one's assistant. 

In mid-1968, however, the circumstances were different. The returning Owsley was the pre-eminent electronic genius, and Healy must have seen himself pushed aside. It's known that he became a full time engineer and producer for the newly burgeoning record industry in San Francisco, as his name can be seen on the backs of many albums. It's also logical that if Healy ever had thoughts of making it as a musician, 1968 was the perfect time: record companies were signing everyone with long hair, and he wasn't doing anything else. In any case, although studio engineering could be intense, it was still intermittent even when business was good. Rehearsing and gigging were always possible at all but the busiest times. So Healy must formed or joined Hoffman's Bicycle just as he separated from the Grateful Dead in the early Summer of 1968.
This Tuesday Night Jam art seems to have been used a couple of different times in various formats at the Carousel Ballroom in 1968. 

Hoffman's Bicycle>Bycycle Performance History
With all of this in mind, I am going to present what little is known about the band Hoffman's Bicycle and its successor Bycycle. Of course, all I know for an absolute fact is that Dan Healy was the bass player for Hoffman's Bicycle, and the band later changed its name to Bycycle. I do not know how long Healy was in the group. I also have to assume that various late 60s Bay Area listings for the band "Bicycle" were really Bycycle, which seems likely. Anyone who knows anything about any other members of Bycycle, or of Healy's non-engineering activities in 1968-69, is encouraged to include them in the Comments or email me directly.

June 4, 1968 Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA "Tuesday Night Jam"
Various San Francisco rock bands controlled The Carousel Ballroom from January through June 1968, but the Grateful Dead and their associates were in charge of the day-to-day operation. Near the end of their tenure, the Dead inaugurated Tuesday night jam sessions, with Jerry Garcia and others playing with various San Francisco musicians. Based on Stern's description of being invited by Bob Weir, and some other sketchy information, I am assuming that June 4 was the night that Stern was the "house drummer" and Dan Healy was present as the bass player for Hoffman's Bycycle. This would have been exactly when Owsley was reasserting himself as the Dead's soundman, and Healy may have seen greener pastures in the growing San Francisco record industry. 

October 18-19, 1968 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: AB Skhy/Hoffman's Bicycle
The only confirmed sighting of Hoffman's Bicycle was at Berkeley's New Orleans House on the weekend of October 18 and 19, 1968. During this time, the New Orleans House was a prime stop for Bay Area rock bands playing original music, along with The Matrix in San Francisco and The Poppycock in Palo Alto. AB Skhy was relatively newly arrived in the Bay Area, and they featured three guys from Wisconsin, along with expartriate-Cincinnati organ player Howard Wales. Wales would  of course go on to play with Garcia and the Dead, and its interesting to see a possible Wales/Healy connection prior to that. 

February 14, 1969 Londonside Tavern, Glen Ellen, CA: Bycycle
The next sighting of the band was several months later. If there was a window where Healy might have left the group, the October through February gap would seem to be the most likely. However, we have no evidence one way or the other. I would note that the performing career of Bycycle appears light enough that Healy could easily have continued his career as a recording engineer while still playing some gigs on the side. As to the name change, I have to think it was a concession to possible commercialism. Every band in San Francisco was getting signed back then--Mercury Records had signed a dozen acts alone in 1968--but being overtly named after the first acid trip was a poor strategy for success. By '69, media outlets were speculating whether the Beatles "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" was a code for LSD, so a band whose name really was in that code would have been ill-advised to keep it. Hence the switch to an archaic spelling of Bicycle seems prudent, while retaining the link for insiders.

Glen Ellen is a small town in Sonoma County, 50 miles North of San Francisco. At the time, Glen Ellen was only known because writer Jack London had an estate there from 1905 until his death in 1916. The tavern at the Londonside Inn in downtown Glen Ellen was a little hippie enclave, and all sorts of cool bands played there in 1969, including the nascent Hot Tuna (then just "Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady") and the Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band. The fact that Bycycle was booked there puts them right in the underground mainstream, if such a term makes sense.

On April 19, 1969, the Sir Douglas Quintet, Bycycle, Gentle Dance and Devil's Kitchen played the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. 
April 19, 1969 Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, CA: Sir Douglas Quintet/Bycycle/Gentle Dance/Devil's Kitchen
Sonoma County was small and rural in the 60s. The Sir Douglas Quintet had some popularity in San Francisco, but they weren't Fillmore West headliners. Out in the countryside, however, they could headline. There were numerous buildings on the Fairgrounds site, but I don't know which one they would have used for the concert. Devil's Kitchen were newly arrived in San Francisco from Carbondale, IL. They would soon become the house band at the new Family Dog On The Great Highway.

May 21-22, 1969 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Bicycle
Although we have to assume that the "misspelling" of Bicycle still represents the same group, it seems logical. Bicycle (sic) returned to the New Orleans House to headline a Wednesday and Thursday night. Generally speaking, weeknights at the NOH were for local bands to have their own chance to build an audience.

The performance listings from the June 3, 1969, San Francisco Chronicle. Bicycle was advertised as playing at the Fillmore auditions that night. 
June 3, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA :Transatlantic Railroads/Billy Roberts/Bicycle
Histories of the Fillmore West generally elide the Tuesday night series where three or four local bands played. These shows went on for most of the history of the Fillmore West, save for the Summers when the hall was booked full time. To my knowledge, I am the only one who has attempted to document the Tuesday night Fillmore West "audition" shows.

On Tuesday, June 3, the Fillmore West bill (per that day's SF Chronicle, above) was Transatlantic Railroad, probably a Marin band, Billy Roberts, who had actually written the song "Hey Joe" somewhat earlier, and Bicycle. Every Tuesday night Fillmore West show was recorded, although the tapes may not have survived. Bill Graham used the shows to check out new groups to open at Fillmore West, and the recording could act as a demo if he wanted to sign them. Alternately, BGP would sell the tape to the groups. So it's not impossible that there is an extant tape of Bycycle performing live at Fillmore West.

June 8, 1969 Unitarian Center, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Freedom Highway/Bycycle/others
To the extent that the band name Bycycle is recognized at all, it is recognized from some 1969 rock posters. Any posters in Paul Grushkin's book Art Of Rock are widely known, even if the events themselves were obscure. This benefit concert for the Unitarian Fellowship was held on a Sunday afternoon with a variety of second tier Bay Area bands, along with various light shows and other artists. Sons Of Champlin, Ace Of Cups and Freedom Highway were all booked by the WestPole Agency, run by Quicksilver manager Ron Polte, so the Quicksilver connection remained intact.

The Grateful Dead were playing at Fillmore West this weekend (from Friday June 6 through June 8). There was also a free concert in Golden Gate Park, so it was a big weekend for hip bands in San Francisco. This event was (per the poster) from 2pm to midnight. I'm not sure where the Unitarian Church was at the time, and true to the tradition, the poster is hard to read. In any case, San Francisco rock fans had a variety of choices throughout the day.

July 16-17, 1969 George's Log Cabin, San Francisco, CA: Bycycle
George's Log Cabin was on the farthest Western edge of San Francisco, right on the San Mateo County line, at 2629 Bayshore Boulevard, high above the now-departed Candlestick Park. It had gone through various guises since it had been a prohibition hangout back in the day. By 1969 George's Log Cabin was hosting rock shows, but the bands that played there were not so high on the rock food chain.

A flyer for the July 18-20, 1969 booking at the Family Dog, including the Sir Douglas Quintet and Bicycle. 
July 18-20, 1969 Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Sir Douglas Quintet/Bicycle/Kwan Ditos/Shades Of Joy
Chet Helms had closed the Avalon Ballroom in December 1968, although other promoters had since used it. In June of 1969, he moved his Family Dog operation to Ocean Beach, using a modest ballroom at a decaying Amusement Park. The posters called it The Family Dog On The Great Highway, but most of the locals called it Playland, as they always had. While the FDGH was definitely a rung below the Fillmore West, there was still plenty of optimism in July of 1969, and various hip acts played the room.

Once again the Sir Douglas Quintet was headlining a show where Bycycle opened, suggesting some other kind of connection between the bands. Its worth noting that Healy and Sahm had recorded together for Mercury, and Healy had mixed Sahm's hit "Mendocino," as well as working on his other albums. (For the record, the Kwan Ditos were a Latin rock band that featured pianist Todd Barkan, who was the proprietor of the Keystone Korner from mid-72 onwards, when it was a jazz club. The Shades Of Joy were a sort of jam band that featured saxophonist Martin Fierro, among others.)

August 22, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Womb/4th Way/Ace Of Cups/The Committee Benefit for The Wild West Organizers
Our most tantalizing clue about Dan Healy's career as a musician comes from his time working on the Shady Grove album for Quicksilver Messenger Service, which he engineered. At the end of 1968, guitarist Gary Duncan had left Quicksilver to form a band with singer Dino Valenti. Ironically enough, Duncan left just as Quicksilver was starting to get played regularly on the new FM radios throughout the country. The band's second album, the classic Happy Trails, was released in February 1969 and was an instant classic. Quicksilver was hardly a band, but Capitol really wanted an album.

Throughout the first half of 1969, Quicksilver had only existed in name only. The three remaining members (lead guitarist Cipollina, bassist/vocalist David Freiberg and drummer Greg Elmore) played a little with producer Nick Gravenites, but really they were doing nothing. Eventually, the band hooked up with pianist Nicky Hopkins, who had enjoyed his visits to the Bay Area with the Jeff Beck Group so much that he had decided to move to Mill Valley. The quartet began recording Quicksilver's third album with Dan Healy at the board. They recorded at Wally Heider's Studio in July and August of 1969, and switched over to Pacific High Recorders for August and September. The Shady Grove album would finally come out in December. It has some interesting moments, but it generally has the disorganized feel of a band that was struggling to find something to record.

I have only been able to confirm four Quicksilver Messenger Service shows from the Summer of '69, all during the recording of Shady Grove. The first two were July 18 and 19, in the tiny town of Seaside, near Monterey. The band played an old movie theater that had been turned into a burlesque house. Since Seaside was near Fort Ord, there had presumably been a steady supply of soldiers interested in womanly charms, but it appeared that Quicksilver's management was trying out different venues in order to start their own ballroom. In any case, Seaside was well outside of San Francisco, so it made sense for a popular band trying to work on new material in a live setting to play at an out-of-the-way venue.

However, Quicksilver Messenger Service also headlined a shows at the Fillmore West and the Family Dog On The Great Highway on Friday and Saturday, August 22 and 23. The biggest event of the San Francisco summer was supposed to be a giant rock festival in Golden Gate Park called The Wild West Festival. The event was scheduled for the weekend of August 22-24, and the entire event fell apart in amidst ill will and bitter arguments over money. The organizers had taken a bath, and as the bands had kept the weekend free, benefit concerts were held at the two venues to try and defray some of the costs.

Fortunately, we have a remarkably detailed account of the Friday night Quicksilver show at Fillmore West. Faren Miller was a Berkeley teenager whose parents also liked rock music, so they regularly took her to rock shows, particularly to see Quicksilver, her favorite band. Miller, to the delight of future rock prosopographers, would write a detailed description of each show she attended in her diary. About twenty-five years later, once the internet was invented, Miller excerpted all the rock concert parts. Thus she has provided exceptional details about the specific bands and venues for the shows she attended (and Faren, wherever you are, thank you so, so much).

In Miller's detailed description of Quicksilver's August '69 Fillmore band, she describes a loose band just getting used to having Hopkins as a member. Most intriguingly, however, she says that for several numbers they were joined by their friend Dan Healy, who played bass and guitar. Miller had no idea who Healy was at the time (nor did anyone else), so he must have been introduced from the stage. Although David Freiberg was a fine bass player, he had not always played bass on every number with Quicksilver, letting Gary Duncan take it over on occasion. So for this show, at least, Healy seems to have acted as a utility infielder, presumably playing bass and rhythm guitar on various numbers. Healy was mixing the Shady Grove album at Pacific High by this time, and he probably knew their new material as well or better than the band.

However, one thing that this unexpected sighting of Healy with Quicksilver tells me was that Healy was a pretty active musician at the time. The Quicksilver boys were loose hippies, sure, but they could all really play, and Hopkins was a certified session legend even by 1969. So Healy wouldn't have been on the stage, even in a modest role, unless he could play with the big boys. That leads me to think that Healy must still have been playing regularly. From that, I am inferring that most likely he had continued to play with Bycycle.

Incidentally, I got a detailed email about one of the Seaside shows from someone who attended, and he definitely does not recall Healy playing with Quicksilver at that show. He doesn't rule it out, but his memories were pretty clear, and he doesn't recall it. Noting that Quicksilver appears to have introduced Healy to the crowd at Fillmore West, that suggests he did not play at Seaside. I would note that Bycycle had a gig that weekend at the Family Dog, so sketchy as the evidence might be, the dates line up.

"Moby Grape" (actually The Rhythm Dukes) and Bycycle were booked at the Monterey County Fairgrounds on September 5, 1969. 

September 5, 1969 Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey, CA: "Moby Grape"/Fields/Bycycle
The Monterey County Fairgrounds were actually regularly used for rock shows, but of course they were far smaller than the legendary 1967 Festival at the main Horse Show arena. Although this concert was billed as "Moby Grape," it was really a band called The Rhythm Dukes, who lived in Felton and featured two former members of the Grape (Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson). Their difficulty in preventing promoters from using the name Moby Grape was just one of a long line of frustrations for the band. Based on the poster, and some things I know about the nascent Monterey rock scene, this seems to have been yet another very hippie promotion, which seems characteristic of the gigs that Bycycle played.

December 5, 1969 Cal Expo Auditorium, Sacramento, CA: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young/Taj Mahal/Bycycle
The final whiff of Bycycle was their biggest gig, by far. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were the hottest band in the country in 1969. The morning after this show, CSNY would be helicoptered over to Altamont Raceway (about 80 miles North) to open the soon-to-be-infamous festival featuring the Rolling Stones. Immediately after their performance, CSNY was helicoptered to the airport, where they went to Los Angeles and played UCLA that night. Only the next morning did they read the papers to find out what a mess they had missed by being choppered in and out of the festival.

How did Bycycle, not even a Sacramento band, end up opening the biggest show in Sacramento? Taj Mahal was on Columbia, well connected in Los Angeles and fine performer, so his presence was not surprising. But since every aspiring rock band for hundreds of miles around would have wanted the opening slot, how did Bycycle get the call? Who did they know, and when did they know it?

How long Dan Healy was in Bycycle remains a mystery--we of course don't know for sure whether he was in the band at all after the name change in 1969. However, their performance schedule seems light enough that he could have been. Healy went on to fame as the Grateful Dead's soundman and engineer, and in the 1980s he led his own group, the Healy-Treece Band. Yet he seems never to have mentioned that he had a sixties group. Somewhere out there are the other members of Hoffman's Bicycle, and here's to hoping they can tell us the other pieces of the puzzle.


  1. Awesome.

    On Tuesday night jams, I don't know 5/28, only 5/21, 5/22 and 6/4.

    On 5/22:

    On 6/4:

    I have never understood the respective roles of Owsley, Healy, Bob and Betty at the various points in time, but I like your thinking here.

    1. I updated the post, and replaced May 28 with May 22. The interlocking relationship between Owsley, Healy, Bob, Betty and Ron Wickersham is only discussed in the most guarded of terms. As people get older, they only remember the good times, but there had to be a lot of wrangling for position going on.

  2. You're right that the various members of the Dead sound crew barely mention working together. Healy & Owsley are complimentary about each other when interviewed, as far as I've seen, but there's very little indication of how they worked together at the time. (Same with Bob Matthews. Even Alembic's "official" online history never mentions Owsley, who founded the company!)
    Given how many talented sound engineers fell into orbit around the Dead, there must have been a lot of jostling sometimes; and I think the eventual solution was that they each found different specialties. When Owsley came back in '72 it seems he wasn't exactly welcomed by the rest of the sound crew, and had a hard time finding his place at the soundboard again (he names the house-mixer Matthews as the main culprit, not Healy) - by '73 it looks like he switched from doing soundboard duty to being on the PA design committee along with Healy.

    Healy did go on the road with the band during the late '67/early '68 Anthem shows (as well as being their studio engineer), but I think he didn't tour with them again til '72. According to Owsley, in summer '68, Healy went off to work with Quicksilver (maybe Owsley was mistaken; maybe McNally got that from him?) but he said that's why the Dead asked him to be their soundman again. There must have been some unknown reason for Healy to stop working for the Dead then...their lack of finances, perhaps, or some obscure interpersonal squabble like the one that temporarily ousted Matthews in '67?
    Anyway, Healy's activities after that are obscure. (We don't have a recording timeline for him like you did for Bob & Betty!)

  3. One engineer (Phil Sawyer) who worked on Aoxomoxoa circa '69 had some fascinating things to say about how the various members of the Dead's sound crew interacted during those sessions, from an outsider's perspective:
    "[I was] not the Dead's engineer, mind you. There were all kinds of them around: Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor were sort of the almost official engineers - the "almost" part ruining their ability to take charge of anything that was happening - Bob especially seeming to be always in sort of a snit, as if things weren't being properly acknowledged - it was kinda weird. Dan Healy was in and out, freaking out Matthews because clarity of role was always threatened whenever Healy was around. Healy was an incredibly gifted technician and one whom I believed should have had the commanding engineering position, yet I could see that perhaps no one could drive this whale, and Healy's best contribution was as the renaissance court pyrotechnician, easily and confidently in command and able to explain, in myriad ways, the potential of all that lay before us.
    In all the chaos I ended up trying to get more and more involved so at least something would be happening that could be called progress. And once in a while someone would try a mix - [bandmembers], sometimes Matthews, but not Healy and not Owsley. Never Owsley seriously. But as a reply to his constant nagging, someone would occasionally challenge him to stop whining about the superiority of his precious Nagra recorder and try a mix himself....but no one really expected his mixing to ever matter...
    I saw Dan Healy quite often at Pacific High Recording in '69, '70, and '71; at the sessions for the Charlatans, and at those for the Dead's "Aoxomoxoa" and "Workingman's Dead" albums which he continually visited, advising and kibitzing, often to the chagrin of engineer Bob Matthews (and to another contender for the role of technical wizard, Owsley, who was unmercifully teased about it by the others, never actually realizing that his quest was to them an amusement).
    When Dan Healy came flying into a room, he was the promise of a barnstorming test ace come to the rescue with brilliant pluck and unbounded enterprise! He had thoughts on almost everything at hand and anything at issue, comments about minute details of audio recording..."

    As I've written elsewhere about the sessions: Healy had been the main engineer for Anthem of the Sun; Owsley was then doing the live sound; and Matthews was nominally the head engineer for Aoxomoxoa. So the Dead had a surplus of engineers on hand (on top of having all their own ideas about how the mixes should be) - it's no wonder they were stepping on each other & perhaps competing for final say. Matthews may well have felt his position threatened when Healy would come in and "advise." (Healy by then was a producer in his own right!)
    On the album, Owsley, Healy, and Ron Wickersham are all credited as "consulting engineers." After this, I think Owsley perhaps bowed out of studio "consulting," focusing on the live sound. The Dead seem to have found it a most fruitful situation to be surrounded by differing ideas, with no one in charge and everyone having their say.

    1. The Phil Sawyer link is fascinating, I had no idea he had worked with the Dead. I recall his name from all those Airplane albums recorded at Wally Heider's. It's very intriguing to get a professional insider commenting on the competition for "chief engineer." I had no idea that Dan Healy kept dropping in on the Aoxomoxoa sessions, but it makes perfect sense.

  4. I used to have a flyer for a show at Freeborn Hall (UC Davis) with the Kinks appearing with Bycycle on 12/2/1969.

  5. I am the daughter of one of the members of the bycycle. i'm sure my dad would be happy to answer any questions you have and show you some photo albums and fliers. thanks for putting this awesome article together!

    1. Amy, that would be great. He or you can email me directly at corrarnold at g mail dot com.

      Thanks for the kind words. I'm looking forward to anything you can add

  6. In an obscure interview with Dan Healy in Washington DC, on a Healy-Treece Band tour in February 1980, he mentions the band Bycycle. He said that guitarist Richard Treece, whom he had known from high school, was in Bycycle. Healy also says that Bycycle recorded an album

    1. Healy may also have been in an East Bay garage band called The Cheaters. Healy, along with Richard Treece, was listed as a member in Bruce Tahsler's book. The Cheaters actually put out a single (it can be found online), and I think Treece was part of the group at that time.

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    1. Yeah, I saw this and listened to the whole interview. Fascinating. Jake has done all my legwork for me!

      I am planning a big update. Lots of interesting twists and turns.

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