1968...

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I only know of the existence of this gig due to a mention in an article by Robert Somma in the 18-25 Sept 1968 edition of the New York Free Press - it said the following in a caption under a photo:

They (The Soft White Underbelly) played once at the Coach House in Stony Brook in a low-ceilinged room, one of whose walls bore an advertisement for "The Soft White Underbelly: a classic rock quintet."

But there was no indication as to when the gig occurred. I asked Les Braunstein:

Les Braunstein

As for the Coach House - the boys played a number of gigs around Stony Brook before I sang with them. I don't remember this place.

Therefore, I'm placing this gig before Les joined - maybe January 1968?

I'm also placing it before the next few gigs with because Jeff Richards tells me he didn't play this gig, and I want to group the shows he did play together in a contiguous block...

I only know of the existence of this gig due to this recollection:

Jeff Richards

I remember one gig at an Episcopal Church in Sayville, NY of which my then late grandfather had had been minister for 50 years...

I found a "St. Ann's Episcopal Church, 257 Middle Rd, Sayville, NY 11782" on Google - could this be the place where your grandfather was minister...?

Jeff Richards

Yes - I attended the gig, but didn't sing...

Donald Roeser

I literally have no recollection of this gig, but I probably could recall it under hypnosis.

If Jeff said so, it likely happpened. I don't remember ever playing in a church.

Les Braunstein

One gig I do recall was when we played a society party at the townhouse of Marrietta Tree (who was I think the Ambassador to the UN at the time) for Penelope.

And that was all I knew about this gig until I heard from Lee Balstad, who was able to fill in a few more details for me:

Lee Balstad

SWU played at a posh party on the upper east side of NYC, given by upper class Ronald Tree of the UK, and his American society wife Marietta.

We arrived and were escorted into the servants quarters which were literally 'downstairs'. I remember being eager to talk to the servants, but they would have none of us. They really looked down their noses at us.

We went up to the ballroom to set up, in a corner of the room. The invitees were such glitterati and they had come there to see and be seen. So no one all night really listened to the music at all. Lauren Bacall was there with her husband Jason Robards who was falling down drunk. She was three sheets to the wind herself.

Jeff rightly characterized the party as elitist and decadent, too true. There were people dancing on the very expensive antique tables. Ugh.

The Trees were really something. At the party was Penelope Tree who was their daughter, our age, who was a famous high fashion model at the time.

The party was actually set up through Crawdaddy, and it was a welcome home party for Marietta's other daughter, Frankie Fitzgerald, on her return from Vietnam.

She had been there researching her Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam", a topic only too well known to her father, Desmond Fitzgerald, a wealthy CIA operative who was a well known spy in SE Asia and ran CIA operations there before and during the Vietnam War.

And then there was the mother, Marietta Tree, who was, so it was said, the one true love of John Huston, and had a long affair with Adlai Stevenson when he was running for President. She was with him when he died.

That would have been late winter or early spring 1968.

I only previously knew of the existence of this gig was due to the following mention by Jeff Richards:

Jeff Richards

You asked about gigs I remember... End Lounge and Cafeteria in Dorm G at SUSB...

Jeff also tells me he thinks this lounge gig was the first he ever played with the band. When I asked him how many actual gigs did he think he played in total, he says he can't be sure... "but maybe three"...

So if that's correct, and I do know Jeff played his last gig with the SWU at the Anderson, then that would place this lounge gig approximately here in the time-line...

I only previously knew of the existence of this gig was due to the following mention by John Wiesenthal:

John Wiesenthal

There was a club in Port Jefferson owned by a retired football pro, Frank Imperiale. They had a psychedelic light show and we played there maybe more than once.

However, I had absolutely no clue as to when it occurred except to say that Les says he doesn't remember it, so it looks like it was before his time - so sometime between November 1967 and January 1968, probably...

And then Jeff Richards mentioned this:

Jeff Richards

One gig I remember was at a Port Jefferson nightclub called "The In Crowd"...

Could this be the same venue mentioned by John Wiesenthal?

Jeff Richards

Yes - same place. I sang on this gig, but don't recall the date...

If anyone has any extra info about this, please let me know...

Ralph

I was able to date this show thanks to Les Braunstein's info that the Group Image hired the venue on the Sunday before the show.

Quick Gig Facts
Richard Kostelanetz

Soft White Underbelly: February 2, 1968. Yiddish Anderson Theater.

"In spite of their marvelous name, this is a rather undistinguished group that appeared not to know what to do with themselves most of the concert.

A tall pretty fellow, in an antique costume, placed himself on the the stage where the lead singer belongs, but he hardly sang - in one piece playing saxophone instead.

The group's leader appeared to be a pint-sized guy, dressed in a cossack shirt, who is enormously adept on guitar. Either they were missing something that evening, or I was."

from "The Fillmore East - Recollections of Rock Theater" by Richard Kostelanetz, and Raeanne Rubenstein (Photographer)

Howie Klein

"Stony Brook's Underbelly Hits The Big Time"

Opening of the Anderson-Crawdaddy Theater: Country Joe and the Fish, Jim Kweskin Jug Band, and our own boys, the already awesome Soft White Underbelly. Country Joe and the Fish alone would have packed the place twice. But the A-C Theater presented a second act, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, which sold out at Town Hall recently, and a fantastic up and coming second group with whom we at Stony Brook are all acquainted with, the Soft White Underbelly.

The Soft White Underbelly opened the show. The audience was pleasantly surprised. The Underbelly received moderate applause and only a few catcalls from Kweskin fans, the same few people who walked out when Country Joe came on.

The Underbelly is unquestionably one of the strongest instrumental groups to play in New York since the Cream whom they have surpassed in technical virtuosity. Their major flaw was a weak vocal showing, which improved in the second show. "You" was superb. Jeff and Albert did amazingly well with their voices.

Albert's drumming and Don's lead guitar were out of sight. "Hangin' Round", a song about draft boards, had some of the clearest, most integrated organ of the night. "Green" is a beautiful folksy piece. It was followed by a tight hard rock number, "All Night Gas Station", which introduced Jeff on a tastefully used saxophone.

They do what few rock bands can do: add a saxophone in a non-raucous manner. "Alan's Song" was the weakest piece. "Rain is Falling", a soul song, was fantastic, enlivened by Don's unsurpassed guitar rushes.

The Jim Kweskin Jug Band, the best of that type of music around, was tumultously received. As a second act, it was one of the biggest successes around. As usual, the breaks between the numbers were an integral part of the show.

The band generated a warm friendly feeling and the crowd, geared to rock, ate them up. "Gwabe, Gwabe," an African folk song and "Kicking the Gong Around" were excellent, but without a doubt the two best Kweskin numbers were "Never Swat a Fly," and "I'm a Woman."

In both, Marie's vocals were fabulous, but in the latter the electric violin solo was one of the best things done by any jug band.

The stage work accompanying the change from Kweskin to Country Joe was the most professional that I've ever seen. The sparkling clear and radiant introduction was followed by Barry Melton's voice and guitar dominating the song "Love." The harp in "Masked Marauder" was perfect and the organ was just incredible.

"Thursday," by Chicken and Dave, is filled with perfect examples of the Meltzerian tongue categorizations. When Country Joe announced satirically that he was dedicating "Superbird" to President Johnson, he brought the house down.

After "Acid Commercial," they went back to some more political rock, dedicating "I-feel-like-I'm-fixin-to- die" to Che Guevera. With Barry on kazoo and everybody in a real good time music spirit, the song was better Jug band music than Kweskin's stuff.

"Death Sound Blues" is the best American rock has to offer in the way of harmonious instrumental virtuosity. The next song could be called psychedelic soul because of the James Brown influence.

Applause to "Not So Sweet," and "Thought Dream" was unrestrained. They knew what they were doing, and one sort of got the feeling that the whole thing was a show.

from "The Statesman" (9 Feb 1968) by Howie Klein

Ralph

Howie's line "Their major flaw was a weak vocal showing, which improved in the second show" not only high-lighted the need for a frontman in the form of Les Braunstein, it also indicated that there were two shows from The Underbelly - and, presumably, everyone else too.

The context for this improvised early morning gig that took place at the gates of the University hark back to the local police's "Operation Stony Brook" raid on Wednesday 17 January 1968, when about 200 Suffolk County Police Department officers carried out a drug bust on the campus at 5 a.m. by coming into Stony Brook University dormitories and arresting 24 students for marijuana possession.

This "pot bust" raid made national headlines at the time, but Stony Brook was by no means the only college to face this pre-dawn raid tactic. More details here. Howie Klein also mentions it here.

Albert Bouchard

At the Stony Brook pot bust benefit, we had both Allen Lanier and Jeff Latham in the band. We also had Les Braunstein and Jeff Richards too, so we were a 7 piece.

I'm actually very sure so that would be line up #5 or 4 1/2.

Also the Fugs headlined and Helen Wheels and I arranged it with Tuli at a Yippie meeting the week before.

I think it was Jeff Richards last gig as well.

NB: Jeff Richards has told me he didn't perform at this event, and that he thinks his last gig was at The Anderson gig on the 2nd February.

Les Braunstein

By the way, the first gig I did officially with the boys was the Pot Bust demonstration with the Fugs after the big campus bust at Stony Brook.

I sang an extemporaneous song about it and I noticed that the school paper echoed my words in their headline...

Ralph

The Tea Smoking Party took place, but SWU apparently "weren't able to show up" (see second clipping above)...

All I know about this one is this:

John Wiesenthal

In March (Zodiac Aries) there was a themed "The Lion And the Lamb" dance. I painted a large Lamb mural as a stage backdrop.

I had gotten some basement space from a dorm administrator and some money from a student government committee to set up a silk screen shop.

I set out to change the face of the campus bulletin boards by replacing mimeographed posters with my colorful versions. The posters came from that effort. I did all the designs.

I looked through all the relevant issues of The Statesman, but could find no mention of such an event...

All my previous research had pointed to the Underbelly playing a series of 6 nights at this venue in support of Chuck Berry - I asked Albert for confirmation:

Albert Bouchard

No that is absolutely NOT right - the contract was for six days and what happened is we got fired on the third day...

In his book, "Lucky Monkey" (available from Amazon), Les Braunstein goes into a lot of interesting detail about these gigs.

Les Braunstein

We played a club in Manhattan called Generation. Like many of our gigs, Sandy had gotten us into a big club before anyone knew us. It was an unlikely gig.

The club had been open for only two weeks when we got there. The first week was Janis Joplin. The second week was Jessie Colin Young and the Youngbloods. The third week was going to be Chuck Berry and B B King.

And, oh yeah, the Soft White Underbelly.

Les tells about how Chuck Berry saved on costs by travelling without a band by insisting on venues supplying him with backing musicians at each show - "he could actually pull this off because everyone knew his stuff"- and on this occasion it was to be the Underbelly.

Les Braunstein

The plan was: BB King would play, then the Underbelly would play, then I would get down off the stage and Chuck would step on and the boys would back him up.

No question this was a prestigious engagement, and to mark the occasion, Sandy Pearlman had a nice surprise waiting for them when they showed up in the afternoon before the gig for a quick run through with Chuck - two shiny new black Fender Twin Reverb amps.

Les Braunstein

The band had been in dire need of new amps. Most of what we had was old and played. What the boys needed were some classic Fenders. Marshalls were louder, but Fenders had the sound. And here they were. Sandy had gotten them in time for this big gig.

Les was also pleased that the club had a "proper" PA - he'd only ever sung through a guitar amp previously and had never really been able to hear his vocals clearly before...

Shortly after they'd set up - complete with their brand new amps, Chuck came in, but there wasn't much in the way of rehearsal...

Albert Bouchard

Well, everybody knows Chuck's songs... there's the Shuffle kind and the Rocking kind, and you play 'em both... [Chuckles]... and there was no rehearsal, and he just says - and it's a visual thing so you gotta see - [gets up and mimes Chuck with guitar] -

He goes "Who's the drummer - right, drummer - OK - here's how it goes - when you see me raise my guitar like this, and I go down like that, you gotta stop right there OK, otherwise you just keep playing OK and when you see me go like this - that means the end of the song, wrap it up boys..."

By the time the gig started, Les describes in "Lucky Monkey" how he had to tame the crowd somewhat after BB King's set to try and get them onto the Underbelly's wavelength - they started off with a blues jam, and then did three SWU songs only before Les left the stage and Chuck Berry took over.

One interesting feature to note, according to Les, was that at one point during Chuck's first set, he let Donald do a lead:

Les Braunstein

Donald took a step forward. He glanced down at his guitar and rolled a knob. He smashed his foot down on his pedal and took off into the kind of soaring lead that he was to become rightly famous for years later. He didn't look down, or back, or at Chuck. The crowd had never heard such a thing.

Although Donald was totally out of place at that show, in that moment he was their master. Now they screamed for him.

That was Donald's last lead.

Albert chuckles when that is mentioned: "I seem, to recall that happened, yeah..."

Strangely enough, though, it was after the gig was finished that the real action started to get underway...

Albert Bouchard

Hendrix was in the audience and watching BB King and after BB finished, the owner of the place or the booking guy came over and said "Some of the guys want to jam with Jimi Hendrix - can they use your stuff? And we said "Sure - we wanna see it", y'know...

He said we got the Paul Butterfield Band, most of them are here, we got Al Kooper here, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield and this guy Davenport, the drummer from Butterfield... and Hendrix - they're going to jam - is it OK if they use your stuff and we said that's great, man we wanna see that!!

Les's recollections of this are slightly different - he reckons there was no Hendrix until the next night:

Les Braunstein

Up to the stage stepped Al Kooper. We knew him because he had produced a demo for the Soft White Underbelly at Columbia. And, of course, he had played in the Blues Project, a band we'd all seen and respected.

And right behind him was Paul Butterfeld and Elvin Bishop. Along with a couple of their friends, they stepped on to the stage, plugged into the Underbelly's new amps and began to play. Rolled those dials up much higher than we had, and rocked into the night.

During the course of the set the we occasionally asked the players to turn down, to spare our new amps. Kooper had been understanding and cooperative but others had disregarded us and cranked the amps. The band was just scraping by at that point. Money was scarce and these new amps were our livelihood. We watched with awe and concern.

Incidentally, the fact that Les mentions they already knew Al Kooper because he'd produced their demo is important because it helps place that Al Kooper session into the timeline before this gig... probably March, by my reckoning...

Albert Bouchard

So they got up there and they started playing - it was awesome but we had a three hour drive back to Stony Brook, and it was about 4 in the morning and we had to be back there at about 5, so it was about 6 hours of driving so we had to go, so we left while they were still playing...

Albert Bouchard

So we come back the next day... and everything is broken... well, not really everything, but we had two Fender Twin Reverbs and Don had one and Allen had one - both of them when you turned them on - nothing! and we're like "Oh Shit" and it turned out the fuses were blown - it probably had nothing to do with the people playing, it was more to do with there might have been bad electricity in the club...

It was really just a little cheesy club but it was on 8th Street in the West Village which is a happening street - it's still a happening street in New York, there was always tons of people going by - it seemed like it was a great tourist area - but anyway, the fuses were blown, my hi-hat was broken, the connecting pedal to the thing which makes the hat go up and down had been snapped - admittedly, this was the drum gear that I had in the Regal Tones from high school, y'know...

So we had to make an emergency run to a music store to get another hi-hat and to get some fuses for the amps and we did that and the money we'd made the night before we had to use to buy a hi-hat...

So OK, that's the way it goes, but we're going to make more through playing for six days so we play the next night...

Regarding the actual SWU performance on the second night, that seems to have gone down well enough:

Les Braunstein

The next night was a lot like the night before, except Jimi Hendrix was there to see BB King.

This time the Underbelly was ready for the crowd and knew how to handle them. A little jam-rap to establish solidarity, a quick set and off the stage.

After the gig, it was the same story as the night before...

Albert Bouchard

At the end of the night, the owner comes over and says "Listen, Al had so much fun last night and he's back with his new band called Blood Sweat and Tears and they're gonna play with Hendrix, can they use your gear?" and we said "No!!"

And he said what do you mean, "no?" "Well we came in this afternoon and you weren't here but everything was broken, y'know and nobody's offering to pay for it - all the money we made last night went to fix our stuff".

He said "well, I'm sorry but that's just the way it goes - you guys left, and who knows what happened but they want to jam - what are we gonna do?" We said, "well OK - how about this? Whoever's going to use my equipment has to come over and talk to me about it first - it's not just somebody's gear, it's MY gear, and you don't abuse it cos it's mine! I'm doing it as a favour to you."

So just like that, everybody came over and asked "can I use your gear?" and we said OK, Bobby Columbi from Blood Sweat and Tears came over and asked me if he could use it and I said fine and he said "You know what - there's no hard feelings - I really respect that - I've let people play on my stuff and then I get up and the drum is useless - it has all these welts on it from people hitting too hard and bad technique or whatever, but don't worry, if anything happens, I'll fix it or replace it, whatever..." so I said OK, cool! So - and we've been friends ever since that night actually, Bobby Columbi and me - he's an A&R guy..

Anyway, they played and they were great - they played some BS&T songs and then Hendrix got up and played with them... we left, once again... about 4 in the morning...

We came back the next day, and all our gear was fine, everything was cool and the owner comes up and says "we got another band, you guys can take your stuff - you're fired!"

So that was the end of our Chuck Berry gig... the week gig that turned into two days...

By the way, if you're wondering what Chuck Berry did for a back-up band for the rest of the week, Les offers an interesting coda:

Les Braunstein

Later, I had the bus pulled up in front, and while we loaded up the amps we could see Chuck Berry inside practicing with his new band of hopeless musicians fresh off the street. He didn't look happy.

That club, Generation, closed after just one season. But it was quite a season.

And Hendrix must have had a great time because he bought that club and made it into his personal studio, Electric Ladyland.

Quick Gig Facts
Ralph

I only know of this gig thanks to the following mention in the Wednesday, April 24 1966 edition of the Integrator (the Clarkson College in-house magazine)...

Concert Sunday
Students for an Open Society will sponsor what they call a "multi-band super-concert" this Sunday, April 28, at 12:30 in the Clarkson Arena. The title of the concert is "Blues Bag World War III".

Groups appearing at the concert will be The Soft White Underbelly, The Beautiful People, The Mason-Frederick Line, The Jug Band, The Group, and Fran McKendree and Company.

Robby Barkan

When I was a student at Stony Brook University in the fall of 1967 young Sandy Pearlman started bringing the boys around to the college. At first they would jam in the dorm lounges. One Saturday night in November 1967 a Hendrix-Cream copy band named Alice was playing in one of these lounges. The boys and Sandy were hanging out listening.

Alice lent them their instruments and let them sit in. They had no singer then. They jammed like you and I breathe - every waking moment it seemed. SWU let me sing a Doors song "My Eyes Have Seen You" during that set, which they expanded into a long jam after the second verse. I stood right next to Donald and Andy Winters, their original bassist, who was quite good. Donald was all over his guitar, as the saying goes. He flew. The room tripped out with them playing in it. The boys were tight and fast and rocked hard even then. This was 1967. Pearlman knew exactly what he had.

They began opening for every rock concert at Stony Brook. One of their best performances was at the Grateful Dead concert in the gym. After their set the Dead were rigging up. Bob Weir set his Gibson SG against his amp. When he walked away the guitar fell over and the sound of the neck cracking filled the gym. Weir was upset to say the least. Donald also played an SG so guess whose guitar Weir used that night? Mr. Roeser at his kindest.

The boys lived in a house on Lake Avenue in Saint James, the next town over from Stony Brook. I hung out with them a couple of times. The walls of the rooms were painted black. They practiced in a spare room. One bedroom had a fabulous mural of Jim Morrison and the Doors, artist unknown to me. Jim was depicted as a strutting lion.

I asked them if they needed songs--I had started writing some of my own. No, they said, they had plenty. I asked them if they needed a singer. No, they'd found one--probably Les. One thing I remember is the boys were always kind, even in rejection. Polite and kind. They got the success they deserved.

Summer of 1968. I was asked to join guitarist Eddie Schrager's band as bassist and singer. Eddie borrowed the SWU's amps when came time for our Stony Brook gym concert. I remember driving to their house in Great Neck with Eddie in my '60 Chevy to pick them up--three Fender Twins. The boys were still asleep but for one, who let us into the basement studio to fetch the amps.

That's all I can remember about the boys for now. These are sweet memories indeed--happy to share them with you...

Ralph

I did wonder which of the Stony Brook Dead shows was it that SWU played on... The Dead played there three times:

  1. June 1967: this would have been too early for SWU to be on the bill
  2. 4 May 4 1968 - The Grateful Dead/Incredible String Band
  3. 30-31 Oct 1970 (2 shows) - Dead/New Riders of Purple Sage

Anyway, I now know that it was this gig - thanks to Jane Alcorn, who also provided the above ticket - that it was definitely the 1968 gig with The Incredible String Band as she noted the fact in her scrapbook.

It's annoying that SWU never got billing on these gigs - not even the reviews in the college magazine mention them...

Buck Dharma

I don't have much recollection about the Dead show, you might ask Albert, he may have a better memory for it.

I don't remember loaning my SG to Bob Weir, although I certainly would have. Most likely it was the '68 show. I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't have billing on either of those shows.

All I initially knew about this gig supporting Country Joe is the flyer above which I once saw for sale on the Wolfgang's Vault site. Helpfully, it includes no dating info whatsoever - I mean the whole point of a handbill is to get people to turn up, and they don't put the bloody date on it!! Planks!

According to the flyer, the Riverside Plaza Hotel gig was set up by the Columbia University Strike Coordinating Committee and was to be a Benefit concert (sorry, make that "Beneft concert") for the "Liberation School". Could these help date this show?

My first port of call for Country Joe info, chickenonaunicycle.com (the Country Joe gig list site), couldn't help - it had this gig listed simply as "1968".

It's probably not particularly relevant to go over the causes and course of the protests here - there's a helpful overview on wikipedia, which includes links for further information if you want to read up on it further.

I've been looking at the chronology of the Columbia protests, and there were two distinct phases:

  1. Tue 23 Apr - Tue 30 Apr 1968: First round of protests
  2. Fri 17 May - Wed 22 May 1968: Second round of protests

According to the timeline, after the police bust of April 30, the Strike Coordinating Committee (SCC) set up a Strike Education Committee (SEC) on 2 May 1968. The SEC created and coordinated an alternative "Liberation School" that offered "counter-classes" to replace those being boycotted during the strike.

Therefore, this benefit gig for that Liberation School had to have taken place sometime after this date - but when?

Albert initially told me that this gig "couldn't have been the 22nd of May because that was the day the police came but as I recall it was toward the end of the protests, maybe the 20th or 21st." But was Country Joe in the area at that time?

I went back to chickenonaunicycle.com and looked for when Country Joe could have been in the area to do the gig.

I discovered that Country Joe spent the period of 2 May - 24 May gigging on the West coast, but here's the known CJ gig schedule for the period just after that:

Fri 24 May 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego CA [with the Genetic Dryft]
Sat 25 May 1968 Fillmore East, New York City NY [with Blue Cheer, Pigmeat Markham]
Sun 26 May 1968 Woolsey Hall, Yale University New Haven, CT
Wed 29 May 1968 Action House, Island Park NY
Fri 31 May 1968 Cheetah, Venice, Los Angeles CA [with Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Pacific Gas & Electric]

So it looks like Country Joe was only - potentially - available to play this gig sometime between Saturday 25 May-Thursday 30 May 1968.

Albert Bouchard

Hmmm... Maybe it was after the 2nd round of protests? I think they were trying to raise legal defense money. Maybe the 27 or 28th, before the Action House gig. I went to the Fillmore show with Blue Cheer.

My memory of the Columbia show was that it was not at any sort of a venue at all but in a dorm or apartment building up around Columbia.

We only played a few songs and I remember talking to Barry Melton at length about all the shows we had just played with them.

They were one of my favorite groups at the time so I was chuffed (love that word that you English use). I am sure that it was after that Fillmore show (25 May) as well. I thought Blue Cheer was awful.

OK, well for the time being I'll date this as 27/28 May 1968 and hope someone can fill in an exact date on some future occasion...

Incidentally, after much searching of the internet for potential info on this gig, I've only ever seen one (undated) reference to this gig. Loads about the Grateful Dead's set outdoors set on the porch of Ferris Booth Hall on 3rd May, but bugger all about the Country Joe gig.

Anyway, here's part of a post by Steve Goldfield on columbia1968.com:

[Apart from the Dead] We had two other benefits that I recall. For one, we rented an old hotel ballroom on 96th Street. Country Joe and the Fish played with a light show. The hotel only had 100 amp circuits, and the band kept blowing the circuit breakers. Theyd strum their instruments until I got the circuit breakers back on. Then somebody moved the plug for the light show to the same circuit, and they kept blowing the circuits except much faster.

The second benefit was at a club in the village. I remember riding down to it in a cab with Dick Gregory. There were a lot of performers: I recall Dave Van Ronk, Stephen Stills, some others, and especially Jimi Hendrix. He had played a show at Fillmore East and then played for us from 2 am to 4 am.

I remember meeting with the manager of the Jefferson Airplane, but we didnt get them to play. One day a free concert was to be held in Wollman Auditorium, but nobody would come inside to hear it.

So, the performers came outside and played on the lawn with no amplification. I remember the Pennywhistlers, Jerry Jeff Walker, and the New Lost City Ramblers, among those who played.

If that "second benefit" was after the Hendrix Fillmore East gig, then I can date that to 10 May 1968. By my current thinking, this must - chronologically - have been the first benefit because, as I've already stated, Country Joe wasn't available until after the 24th May.

Albert Bouchard

During our week of playing at the Scene - there's a Beatles book, I think it's called "Off the Record" or something - it came out 2004 or so and it is a day-by-day chronology of the Beatles from pre-Hamburg to their breakup...

June 18th 1968, Ringo goes to the Scene with Jimi Hendrix and Hendrix jams with Jeremy Steig and Ringo declines to play drums, OK?... And that was my drums that he declined to play on... I said it'd be a great honour for you to use my drums... but he said "No no thank you very much"...

I wanted to see Ringo with Hendrix, that would've been awesome, right? And after everybody left right - Teddy Slater the house manager of the Scene came over to me and said "You know why Ringo didn't want to play your piece of shit drums? Because they're just crap!! You need some new drums"... and that was June 18, 1968..."

Ralph

That date seems be suspect - DC, who does the superb Streets You Crossed blog kindly provided me with the following info:

I contacted my fellow rock venues blogger Corry from Rock Prosopography 101, and here's what he told me:

We are fortunate that crack researcher Mark Skobac shares his research with me, for no reason that I can tell except that he's a super nice guy. He does most of his research at the New York Public Library, so he's not affected by Google's gaps. His list for The Scene shows the following

June 1968

1-2 Gary Burton and Larry Coryell
4-8-Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Mose Alison
9-12-Mose Allison, Steppenwolf, Kenny Rankin
13-15-Mose Allison, Kenny Rankin
16-21-Jeff Beck Group w/Kenny Rankin, Earth Opera
22-30-Earth Opera

Nothing about the Soft White Underbelly, unfortunately. However, the tiny ads in the Village Voice just had "highlights" of coming attractions, as you well know, rather than a detailed listing.

This seems to imply that Kenny Rankin opened a few days for the Beck Group, and Earth Opera moved in for two weeks. June 16-21 (the Beck residency) was Sunday through Friday.

If there was a "transitional" day between Kenny Rankin and Earth Opera, Tuesday June 18 would make the most sense.

So - it's not impossible, of course, but Albert described it as a week-long residency and that doesn't seem to correspond with the above.

It'd be very useful to check the reference in that Beatles book that Albert describes - I've asked him but he says he no longer has access to it...

Anyone out there got a copy?

Stop Press: an anonymous online contributer to the Streets You Crossed blog added this info:

Concerning Ringo's visit to the Scene club, from what I have researched, it was probably June 16, from the account given by Mal Evans, Beatles' equipment manager and inner circle member who travelled with Ringo and George at the time. He remembered "went to see Jimi Hendrix and a flute player - Eric Clapton showed up, all back to the Drake Hotel"...

That's intriguing - the 16th was a Sunday - if that marked a midway point in SWU's residency, as Albert says, and if that June list of Scene gigs above is correct, then SWU would seem to have played some dates on the "Mose Allison, Kenny Rankin" bill and some on the "Jeff Beck Group w/Kenny Rankin, Earth Opera" one.

Yet I'm pretty sure Albert would have recalled playing with Jeff Beck... I obviously need to try and find out more info...

Albert Bouchard

I am as confused as ever on the date of that event. It seems Jeff Beck was playing on the night I thought it was and I no longer have the Beatles Day by Day book. Maybe I can score another copy.

Steven Piparskeggr Robinson

One of my mom's uncles lived in Syosset and worked at Republic Aircraft on Long Island... we were visiting in late July 1968.

My cousin Mike got saddled "baby sitting" me, was 11 at the time. He had plans for the evening, so he took me along to see SWU.

I remember there was music, but mostly the girls who liked him buying me Coca Colas all night because I was cute and they thought it real nice of him to bring me along.

I remember it was Soft White Underbelly, as the name struck me... had finished a unit on WW 2 in summer school about Winston Churchill and his obsession with the "soft underbelly" of Europe.

Counting that, have seen the band 20 times over the years, never been disappointed.

Regarding the venue - I emailed my cousin (he lives in Florida now)... his memories of the time are hazy (as was the air in the bar), but "The Mug" is a place he recalls going to quite frequently.

Ralph

Thanks - I just looked it up and it appears there was a "The Mug" in Glen Head which is just a little west of Syosset, so that seems to tie in.

OK, I'll put the venue down as "The Mug" for now - until I hear anything different...

I only know about this gig thanks to Les:

Les Braunstein

We played a gig at Hunter College that I thought Roni Hoffman set up...

Ralph

This is the date I've worked out for this showcase gig for Elektra's Jac Holzman...

Ralph

I only know of the existence of this gig due to a mention in the 18-25 Sept 1968 edition of the New York Free Press - it said the following in a caption under a photo:

The Soft White Underbelly, one of the lead groups at the Free Press in the Park Sunday, September 8th (photo courtesy of Crawdaddy's).

Ralph

The advert above appeared in both the East Village Other (Friday 27 Sept 1968) and The New York Free Press (Thursday 26 Sept - 2 Oct 1968 issue).

"Wednesdays" clearly refers to some sort of mini-residency, but I currently don't know when it started or ended. The ad doesn't give a starting date, so that makes me think that the residency had already started when the ad appeared.

The next Wednesday after the ad was the 2nd October, so that's why I've appended that date to this gig entry but logic would say that they probably also played on the 9th, and maybe the 16th also. Not the 23rd October, as the SWU were playing in the Stony Brook gym on that date -see next gig entry...

If you're doing a weekly residency, then you might assume that the minimum sort of time period would be a month-long engagement. If we know that the last Wednesday they could play is the 16th, and we factor in that that they probably had already started before the gig on the 2nd Oct, then it's possible to make an initial tentative guess for this Hotel Diplomat residency: 25 Sept - 16 Oct 1968.

If YOU have a better guess, please let me know...

I found a clipping in the 7 Oct 1968 issue of the "Columbia Daily Spectator":

Oct 7
6-8-10
$2.50 Benefit

NEWSREEL presents
AT NEWYORKER THEATER

"THE COLUMBIA REVOLT"
A full-length engaged and
partisan account of last spring's
insurrection on Morningside Heights

and live on stage
Children of God & Soft White Underbelly

I checked other online sources to see if I could find any other mention of this anywhere, without much success, but I did spot the following in the 4 Oct 1968 of the "East Village Other":

Monday, Oct. 7 -
6, 8 and 10 pm
The Newsreel presents: "The Columbia Revolt"
The New Yorker Theatre
88th Street and Broadway

So - unhelpfully, there was no mention of there being any live bands on the bill. But the cryptic "6-8-10" which appeared at the top left of the "Columbia Daily Spectator" ad is explained - it refers to the three different screenings: 6,8 and 10 pm.

But that then begs the question: how many times did the bands play - was it just the one set each? And who headlined?

I don't know much about "Children of God" - but it seems they were just having a record released on A&M at the time, so maybe they headlined...?

By the way - that film mentioned in the ads, "The Columbia Revolt", is available to be viewed online in two parts - check it out:

Ralph

Going purely on the adverts from The Statesman above, this series of gigs seems to have undergone some form of mutation.

The first ad published on page 5 in the 18 October issue has this info:

Three Days Concerts [each night 7pm Gym]:

Tue 23 Oct: (should obviously be 22nd)
Procul Harum
The Chrills (obviously should be "Churls")

Wed 23 Oct:
Blood Sweat & Tears
Rhinoceros, (Moby Grape?)

Thu 24 Oct:
Ten Years After
Soft White Underbelly

So - that's three gigs on consecutive days - but some of the info is clearly wrong/mis-labelled.

Anyway, the second ad that came out 3 days later on page 7 of the 21 Oct edition of The Statesman had this info (now with no mention of the "Three Days Concerts" - presumably it was now "The Two Days Concerts"):

Tue 22 Oct: [9pm Gym]
Procul Harum
Moby Grape
The Chrills (again, obviously should be "Churls")

Wed 23 Oct: [7pm Gym]
Blood Sweat & Tears
Ten Years After
Rhinoceros
Soft White Underbelly

So, that now looks like they'd taken 3 gigs and "squashed them" into two, putting Moby Grape onto the Procul Harum bill on the Tuesday and jamming 10 Years After and the Underbelly into the Wednesday Blood Sweat & Tears show.

An article in 29th October issue of The Statesman confirmed it was definitely two days of concerts, and not three.

Stop Press:
Stony Brook radio station, WUSB fm, held a fund-raising Radiothon on 12 Nov 2016 and decided to play 12 hours featuring various Stony Brook gym concerts from their archive.

Almost unbelievably, one of those concerts was a 48-minute recording of the Soft White Underbelly's performance for this very gig.

WUSB went to a lot of trouble to locate and prepare the tapes for this gig for our benefit, so let's show them some support - the Radiothon might be over, but we can still go to the pledge page on the wusb.fm website, and donate a few dollars to help them carry on their important work.

They still have tapes of a lot of fascinating gig line-ups buried in their archives, so we all need to step up and help provide the means for them to liberate them - after all, what good is music if no one gets to hear it...?

So if you like this broadcast and appreciate its significance, as well as the efforts that went into creating it, please pledge - you know it makes sense...

Ralph

I initially had a problem with this date because the first ad for the 23rd Oct gig (above) says SWU supported Ten Years After on the 24th Oct, but the second ad provided the correction, so I'm now reasonably happy SWU supported Todd Rundgren's Nazz on this date.

I only know about this date and the following Chambers Brothers gig at the Electric Circus because Les mentions them in "Lucky Monkey":

Les Braunstein

We'd had several gigs at the Electric Circus. As I remember, we played there with the Chambers Brothers and also with Sly and the Family Stone.

I've placed this Sly Stone one as occurring before the Chambers Brothers gig because that's just the impression I got - but I don't actually know, so if anyone knows the truth, please let me know...

Both Sly and the Family Stone and the Chambers Brothers were considered to be "house bands" at the Electric Circus at various times - unfortunately, I have yet to see any documented gig lists for the Electric Circus, so it's hard to be specific so far as dates are concerned...

However, I do know that Sly and the Family Stone had a residency here from Tuesday 20 August - Sunday 25 August 1968, but I haven't seen anything for November yet...

Could Les's memory of the gig with Sly possibly be from three months earlier?

I only know about this date because Les mentions it in "Lucky Monkey":

Les Braunstein

But tonight was the Chambers Brothers. The Chambers Brothers big tune was "Time has come today" which they began by calling out "Time" over and over, accompanied by the, at that time, most famous use of a cowbell...

We have something special planned for tonight. We have just picked up the rough mix of Rational Passional and have given it to our friends the boys in the sound booth. At our signal they will play it through that powerful sound system.

We finish our next to last song and I flash the boys upstairs. Right on cue Rational Passional begins and we begin to play, although what the audience hears is the recording pounding from the PA. We know the song well and can play along pretty perfectly and no one notices.

Then about a third of the way through Donald gestures to a pretty girl bopping by the edge of the stage watching him enthralled.

"Me?" she seems to be saying. "Yes, yes" he encourages her to come up onto the stage next to him. He stands behind her and slips the guitar off his neck on to hers. She doesn't know what to do, she can't play guitar.

"Strum, Strum," he seems to be saying. So she strums and... it sounds great! Wow. Both she and the audience are wowed by this. She begins to really get into it. Then Albert brings another girl up on stage and sits her at the drums and Wow! she can play too!.

I have turned away from the audience and have slipped on the mask. I turn back and go into the final verse. The audience stands and stares. My face is... vacant. They're held in place. They can't understand what has so completely transformed me. And they are stoned!!!!

I notice that Albert to my left is now dancing on a Go Go pillar. This is funnnnnnn!!!!!

Andrew Winters

We played the Electric Circus several times...

Once, we lip-synced to one of our tapes that we had cut previously. I think we were high on something-or-other. I remember dancing on a sort of column next to the stage. We were a bit nuts... but it was fun.

If you're wondering how I've been able to tentatively label this gig as 20/21 November 1968, that's down to the fact that Les mentions they'd just picked up a copy of the "Rational" rough mix.

Thanks to the acetate of "Rational Passional" stamped with the date of "19 November 1968" on its label that appeared on ebay in Feb 2016, I'm now able to get an approximate date for this gig.

"Weird Tales from the Early Days of BOC" by Vivien Goldman

The band, with their Elektra contract, moved on to a gig at the exotic Electric Circus in New York.

"The place was a drag," recalls Allen disgustedly, "a bunch of psychedelic lightshows and whacked-out acid head idiots jumpin' around, like a bad scene from 'Blow-Up' or somethin'."

With typical prankish wit, the boys made the DJ play the pressings of their forthcoming Elektra album while they enrolled the services of various ladies in the audience into playing their instruments for them.

Wonderingly, Allen continues, "The audience of course, being so whacked out, didn't know shit... and these stupid chicks are playing, and the record's still going, and they're saying, 'Hey, we're playing real good!'..."

The next night, the band reacted with even more of a conscious art statement - "It was all like psychedelic 60's, and we said, that's a DRAG, man, let's go as if we were the most hicks in the world.

"So we put on the most obnoxious old herring-bone jackets, old ties, shirts, greased our hair all the way down, and the audience is STILL out there going (imitates a rather moronic ape) hugga hugga hugga."

Well, the Cult were kicked off Elektra before the release of the album ever took place, largely because of the bass player saying to Elektra's Art Director, "And whatever we do, don't let's have one of those normal Elektra Records covers."

Sounds 31 July 1976

Allen's description of dressing like hicks dovetails neatly with Meltzer's description of the band's appearance at the Circus on the 29th November where they met Eric Bloom (see next entry), but how much credence can we put in the bit that said "the next night"...?

If that's true, then this gig would have been on 28 November 1968...

Ralph

I initially thought the date for this gig was the 28th November as a result of an account given by Eric Bloom detailing how he came to bring down his PA gear for SWU to use for this gig. However, I've now amended that to the 29th November as a result of the following info.

Jim Freyler

The show I saw at the Electric Circus with SWU was on Friday, Nov. 29, 1968 (day after Thanksgiving) and that the other group on that night was Grafetti.

Bands at the Electric Circus back then usually played multiple dates, so it is entirely possible that SWU was also there on the 28th (if the EC was open on Thanksgiving night ?). It's a good bet that they also appeared over that weekend, especially on the Saturday.

I am however 100% certain about the Nov. 29 date. I think that Grafetti opened and SWU was the underbill for that date.

My notes indicate only that I rated both groups very highly, but after all these years I don't remember any details about them other than that. I do remember being impressed with them and it was only years later that I realized who they were.

Hope this helps in some way !

Richard Meltzer

Manny had been the Rock King of the Finger Lakes (his actual title) when he went to Hobart along with Eric Anderson and all sorts of other heavies and now he was down to dealing certain illicits and that's how the band was first introduced to him, thru his illicits.

It was Thanksgiving '68 at the Electric Circus where they were playing with Graffiti and that nite they decided to dress up like hicks and slick their hairs back and so happened that Manny had also gone to school with Les so there's the connection.

Les brings Manny down and he supplies 'em with illicits and so happens he has a van too so right away he's living in Great Neck as a roadie.

Les Braunstein

I've read that we brought Eric in to do the PA one night at the Electric Circus, but I don't remember that. I remember them having the best PA in town. I remember hanging out up in the sound and light balcony, and looking down on the craziness.

This place was like no other in that it brought in theatrical and circus elements. A trapeze artist twirling like a sparkler high up in the strobelights, a juggling unicyclist rolling back and forth amongst the dancers.

A big white cat led through the black light on a diamond leash. The beauty of the Electric Circus was in its understanding of spectacle and how spectacle all around the people brings them into the show.

Makes them part of the show. You can't be a voyeur. Now smoke a joint.

"Weird Tales from the Early Days of BOC" by Vivien Goldman

The next night, the band reacted with even more of a conscious art statement - "It was all like psychedelic 60's, and we said, that's a DRAG, man, let's go as if we were the most hicks in the world.

"So we put on the most obnoxious old herring-bone jackets, old ties, shirts, greased our hair all the way down, and the audience is STILL out there going (imitates a rather moronic ape) hugga hugga hugga."

Sounds 31 July 1976

If "the next night" statement is accurate, then that would indicate two consecutive gigs at this venue on 28 and 29 November 1968...

Albert Bouchard

I recall being very stoned... You know what? I think Meltzer is wrong about that... he's the one that said we slicked our hair back? Yeah cos Helen Wheels took a picture of me at the Electric Circus... I have a picture and I'm wearing the outfit that she made for me and my hair is not slicked back... looks just like it does today... [chuckles] - except no grey...

However, as SWU played the Electric Circus on a number of occasions, I think Albert's photo must be from a different night because both Allen and Meltzer have referred to this "hick" thing...

Ralph

I only came across news of this gig by accident on a website called Muswell Hill Music ("the place to find the music, songs and recordings of Waqidi Falicoff and friends"). Here's the section that caught my eye:

Shortly after going back to Stony Brook University in 1965, Waqidi hooked up with a fellow student, Bill Laletin, to form a duo, at times called "Bill & Willie" (by the music reviewer for the university paper, The Statesman, Jim Frankel) and finally "Abelard & Dr. Jones".

They performed primarily at the university. They also performed on an ABC documentary on university life as well as performing as a trio with a girl student at the university (who left to get married).

Waqidi also performed with others at the university including, a fellow student, Jeff Kagel, the now famous Kirtan singer, Krishna Das.

Mostly Bill and Waqidi stayed in the folk music genre (Bill still has a list of the songs in their repertoire).

However, on at least one occasion the two went electric with several other student performers to perform more in the folk rock style that was popular at the time (such as Jessie Collin Young's "Get Together" and the early Bee Gee's "New York Mining Disaster").

In one concert the extended group opened for the rock group "The Soft White Underbelly" (later to become the Blue Oyster Cult).

The common connection between the two groups were the students, Sandy Pearlman (he later became the manager for the BOC) and Richard Meltzer (famous for his early work "The Aesthetics of Rock" and other works - see Richard Meltzer's wiki page) as they both were involved with booking the acts for the concerts.

In addition, these two, like Waqidi, were philosophy majors and in many of the same classes and knew each other.

I had certainly not heard anything about this gig before, so I contacted Waqidi to see if he had any more details, and perhaps maybe a date...

I was also intrigued by seeing the mention of Jeff Kagel (Krishna Das), who once tried out as vocalist for SWU and I wondered could he have had any part of this gig at all?

Waqidi Falicoff

After consulting with my friend Bill Laletin, who I played with at the time (and am still friends with), here's what I can piece together about this gig:

  1. We can confirm that we definitely opened for Soft White Underbelly, and we played under the name "Abelard & Dr. Jones" (as we'd dropped the earlier name of "Bill & Willie" by that time). The gig would have been arranged through the Student Activities Board, which I believe would have involved the approval of Sandy Pearlman.
     
  2. The event took place most likely in 1968. I believe I was playing my Les Paul Junior electric guitar, which I rarely played (played exclusively acoustic guitars during my years at University) and which I sold in 1969 to get money ($50-$100) for gas money to travel across US. I did not have that guitar for very long so my guess is that concert was in late 1968 or possibly early 1969.

    Bill remembers that he switched over to a rock band with electric guitars in 1969. Prior to that he played acoustic guitar. We had parted ways by that time and by late 1969 I was the lead guitarist for Hamilton Camp (based in California). So that probably eliminates that the concert was in 1969.
     
  3. We are very sure it was in the Gym as all our previous venues were small ones in the dorms. We both remember this was a much larger venue (with dancing during SWU's performance).
     
  4. I do remember that the song we performed with the "extended group" of performers during that concert was Jessie Collin Young's "Get Together", and we performed the song at the end of the concert with all the guys from SWU. Bill suggest this makes sense as this song would have been one that everyone would have known. (Bill and I were in the folk music field and had little in common with the music of SWU.)

Aside from playing as a trio in 1965 (with a girl singer who left to get married) Bill and I performed exclusively as a duo (he had other gigs without me at times).

I jammed with Jeff Kagel but unless he was on the stage in that concert with SWU (which is unlikely), he never performed with both Bill and I in a paid gig. Krishna Das may have other recollections.

I was a Philosophy major at the same time as Pearlman and Meltzer and we attended quite a few classes together.

I remember Meltzer brought into class a comic book where he added "things" onto the pages. It supposedly had deep meaning. I was not very impressed.

Pearlman was an excellent debater in the class but his technique included citing facts that no one could corroborate at the moment. No Internet.

One of these Philosophy courses was in the field of Aesthetics (most likely with Prof. Donald Goodman or less likely Sydney Gleber) and is where I believe Meltzer started his work on the philosophical overtones of rock lyrics "The Aesthetics of Rock".

My work was on the Aesthetics of Architecture, much less memorable. I later ended up as an academic in the field of Architecture for a few years.

I remember Meltzer commenting on writing an article for Crawdaddy in 1967.

I was also the fellow who put the note on Richard Meltzer's Wikipedia page about him bringing a tape recorder to class: "One of his actions involved sending a tape recorder to class with his comments for the day on tape. Fellow student Sandy Pearlman was responsible for pushing the button."

We got away with a lot in those days!

I remember one class in Philosophy (taught by a Prof. Geoffrey Brogan from Oxford) where the grades of most students were based on the quality of a single question they had to present to Prof. Brogan on the last day of class.

I and a few others were exempt (automatic A's) as the Professor said we already proved our worth in class participation. I don't think Brogan lasted very long at Stony Brook.

He even "stole" away the girlfriend of my friend and fellow student, Gary Sloane.

That was what it was like in the '60s...

By the way my friend Jay Rosenberg (and who I wrote and published songs with in 1960s) ran against Sandy Pearlman for school president in the year Sandy won.

Jay and I just recently rekindled our song writing collaboration with the song "Heaven Release Her" which is in tribute to a 15 year old girl who was killed in Chicago in 2013.

One thing I just remembered is that I picked up a guitar riff from a guitarist with SWU during that concert. And I can even play it now. Funny how things stick with you. It is based on a C7 chord in the 5th position...

Ralph

As a result of Waqidi's information, I'll place this gig round about here in late 1968, and hopefully, at some time in the future, I might come across further information that might help me date it more accurately...

Ralph

The gig was cancelled because Bill Graham fell out with the MC5 as a consequence of a mini-riot at the MC5's Fillmore East gig on the 26th December. Read about the background to the trouble here:

and an account by Wayne Kramer here:

Note that the poster above has been censored by Elektra - it should have said "Get Down for Sixty Nine"...

Albert Bouchard

"I know that we went to the Bill Graham show and we met the MC5 backstage and as I recall, there was some problem, a riot or something that happened at the gig and it was not cool... so I remember that we were down to play with them and we met them because they were our label-mates, so that's where I met the MC5 at that Bill Graham gig which was like a week before or something right?"