Feb 21, 2012

November 23, 1966: Thanksgiving at the Fillmore

Something went on last week at the Fillmore Auditorium which dramatizes the difference between the avant garde of the New Generation (the "Love" generation, if you will) and its elders.
The Fillmore Auditorium gave a party for its patrons.
Thanksgiving Eve, over a thousand regular patrons and friends and rock bands and their friends gathered at the Fillmore to enjoy an elegantly catered dinner, soft drinks and music. Free.
Bill Graham had sent out the invitations previously with a request that no publicity be given. Couples who had been coming to the hall regularly ("I know almost all their faces," Graham says) were given tickets, and the bands were asked to invite their friends.
The result was something absolutely unique in my experience in the world of entertainment.
The bands - Wildflower, the Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead - all played beautifully, and the light show was the best I've seen at the Fillmore.
Midway in the evening, Graham went on stage and asked for a few minutes' indulgence and then introduced all the Fillmore employees, from the hat check girls to the cops. ....
The lines going past the tables of free food lasted until midnight and, like all the other evenings I've spent at the Fillmore, there was no tension, no trouble, and not even the arguments you get at a football game.
The reasons are many and complicated but they rest in the fact that a different set of assumptions is the basis for attitudes.
"It's such a beautiful thing I can't believe it," a long-haired girl said, and her bearded, suede-shirted escort added "It's just too much." ....

(excerpt from a Ralph Gleason column in the SF Chronicle, December 1966 - reprinted in Crawdaddy, issue 8, March 1967)

4 comments:

  1. According to deadlists, this private party took place on Sunday November 27, and was postponed from Wednesday November 23.
    But Gleason here, who should know since he was there and wrote this the next week, states that it was Thanksgiving eve (the 23rd).
    So I'm not sure what the correct date is.

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  2. It was too brief to post on its own, but here is a show announcement from the SF Chronicle that same week, December 1 1966, with a picture of Garcia & Pigpen:

    FROM A JUG

    Jerry Garcia, left, and Pig Pen are a crucial two-fifths of the Grateful Dead, the blues-rock group which will play a dance concert at 9 tomorrow night at Pauley Ballroom, University of California. Garcia is the lead guitarist, Pen is lead singer and plays harmonica and organ.
    The group, which has been in existence for about 16 months, is one of the two most popular such organizations in the Bay Area. It evolved out of a jug band which included Garcia, Pen, and Bob Weir, the Dead's rhythm guitarist. Phil Lesh is the bassist, Bill Sommers is the drummer.

    (scanned in the dead.net clippings)

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  3. I must admit that I have seen nothing concrete to substantiate this even moving to the Sunday, although will see what else can be found. Looking at the dates, both the Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Wildflower had other commitments on Sunday November 27, 1966:

    555 Chestnut Street, Telegraph Hill Center, San Francisco, CA: Country Joe and The Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Serpent Power, Sunshine, Goodrow, Larry Hankin (Benefit for the Telegraph Hill Co-operative Nursery) This event took place from 4-9 pm.
    Matrix, 3138, Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA: Wildflower This would likely have been from 9 pm on.

    Additionally, in the afternoon (2-7 pm) of the 27th, the Fillmore had a separate show:

    Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane, James Cotton Blues Band, Moby Grape

    Dave Harris of Mojo Navigator notes of the event:

    "According to all that attended, Bill Graham's Thanksgiving-eve party at the Fillmore Auditorium was a big success. The Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Grateful Deda played; the admission was free by invitation and there was a lot of good food, also free. Regardless of past happenings on the so-called "scene", I think that Graham deserves the thanks of all who attended and the compliments of those who didn't for what must have been a pleasant affair."

    The Pauley Ballroom show with Country Joe and The Fish and the Grateful Dead was advertised as the Danse Macabre and may well have been John Francis Gunning's final show with the band - he later went on to play with the Second Coming and Eddy Brown and his Brown Bag.

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  4. The contemporary accounts seem definitely to prove that this was a Nov 23 event.

    It was Deadbase that initially claimed this event was postponed to the 27th, and that date was repeated in the GD Illustrated Trips. It seems to be one of those mistaken fossils that stay in the record uncorrected...

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