50 years ago, I was standing on Van Ness at Sutter, palm out panhandling for spare change. I’d spent the last of my cash brought from Albuquerque about an hour earlier at Zim’s coffee shop, on a Christmas Eve burger. Bitter reality was setting in for the holidays but I was determined to raise enough cash to get in to the Avalon, right across Van Ness, for the Family Dog show with Grateful Dead, Moby Grape and Steve Miller Blues Band (from Texas.)
Things were looking grim. Only about $1 of the $3 admission had been scraped together, when up walks Jerry Garcia carrying his guitar case. Weird.
I met Jerry and Bob Weir two days before, when my “roommate” Neal Cassady took me to the Dead’s pad on Ashbury Street, not far from our apartment on Carl. One of several mini adventures with Neal I’d been on. This time, Neal left me sitting in the front parlor while he and Jerry went in back. About 45 minutes later, Bob Weir asked me what I was doing there? I explained arriving with Cassady which seemed to annoy Bob. 30 minutes later, I left the Dead house when Neal never came back. Typical Neal.
Jerry recognized me, also saw I was panhandling and bumming ciggies from passersby. “Hey man.” said Captain Trips, reaching deep into his pockets and literally piling everything he had in my grateful hands. About $4.00 in change, 1/2 pack of Pall Mall’s. Jerry Garcia was a mensch.
I was in. The Avalon was aglow inside. Early arrivals sitting around on the dance floor or dancing to Christmas music playing. The Grateful Dead’s biggest fan wandered around with a grateful grin, waiting for the Owsley aspirin to kick in. Also standing on the floor near the stage was Paul Butterfield, who I recognized from his Elektra album covers. Little Butter introduced himself to Big Butter. What a sweetheart Paul was. So sad I never got to see The Butterfield Blues Band live when they were residing in SF. Big Butter was there to see Steve Miller, making his California debut. Miller Blues Band was opening. They were very good. Big Butter left after their set.
Next up, Moby Grape. My first time seeing them, too.
This clip from Monterey Pop comes close to what I heard at The Avalon.
Skip Spence was the center core of Moby Grape. The former Jefferson Airplane drummer now playing a Martin electric guitar was just as electric onstage. The energy, power, musicality of this band was contagious. Owsley enhanced dance floor was swirling. One of the top 5 experiences I had in Frisco, 1966-67.
Check out their first LP.
Many great records made by SF bands in 1967. None better than this. Never better than 12/24/66 at The Avalon.