Jul 27, 2012

May 16, 1971: Family Dog Party

OUR MINDS WERE YOUNG & BLOWN

SAN FRANCISCO - "A church social, pot-latch, hoe-down, dog-fuck, and sock-hop!" the invitation from Luria Castell Wright read. Luria being one of the founders of the rock scene in San Francisco, one of the four original members of Family Dog, which put on the first dance - with Jefferson Airplane, the Great Society and the Marbles - October 16, 1965 at Longshoreman's Hall.
This time, May 16th, 1971, it was "The Last Annual Grope For Peace...(an invitational event and working party) in celebration of the closing of the first act in the comedy 'The San Francisco Sound - or the Great Leap in Place.' Starring all of you who have received this invitation. Please start at the beginning, 8 PM, as we hope to build a continuing energy throughout the evening, and it's hard to catch a freight train after it leaves the yard."
And so it was that, while Humble Pie, from England, played Bill Graham's comatose Fillmore West around the corner, all the old faces, in all the old fineries, showed up at Pacific High Recording studios to dance and smile and laugh together, just like in those days a full half-decade ago.
Staying close to the studio's high walls and busily mingling were the real old faces: Chet Helms, who fought the city for so long to keep his various Family Dog homes open; now he works for the City, in the Neighborhood Arts Program. Dan Hicks, the Charlatan, now the head of his own group on Blue Thumb. George Hunter, Richard Olsen and all the Victorian old ladies. Spencer Dryden, the second of the Airplane's three drummers, with Mrs. Sally Mann Dryden, six months along and still glowing, in tow. Dryden's now drumming with New Riders of the Purple Sage, and they, too, will have an album out soon.
Bob Weir of the Dead, still looking collegiate, stood apart from Jerry Garcia and Rock Scully, happily huddled together. From Quicksilver, there were David Freiberg, now also part of the Airplane/Dead/Santana crosscurrents. And former Quicksilver head John Cipollina. And Boz Scaggs, just from an Eastern College tour, and his first hit record since leaving the Steve Miller Band, continuing to climb. And Victor Moscoso, Al Kelly, and Wes Wilson, the poster artists. Bob Cohen, the sound man at the Dog. And, somehow fitting in, Peter Boyle, star of Joe. All together, some 300 non-stars.
"Music for the evening will be continuous and sequential, hopefully...featuring many of the people who have suffered through this thing before in hopes of getting it right..."
In fact, the whole Red Dog Saloon was there from Virginia City, only this time with a lot of "Far out" and "What have you been into?" for conversation. And if you can dig Thanksgiving as a rock and roll party, it was a potluck dinner with the tastiest in breads, pastries, fruit salads and other plates such as families bring to these gatherings.
"Refreshment, like energy, will be provided by yourselves - Bring enough eats, drinks, and smokes for you and your neighbor..."
And there are Luria and Ellen Harmon, wandering through the crowd at each stage of the evening - at mealtime whispering to people, "It's time for the next level now, so if you see a drum over there, just start the beat going..."
On stage, music by another ex-Charlatan, Mike Ferguson, now in teen angel motorcycle drag, with his new group, Loose Gravel; by the Purple Riders, and by Stoneground, featuring ex-Beau Brummel Sal Valentino, a churning backup band, and an ensemble of four women - Lynne Hughes, Annie Sampson, Lydia Phillips, and Deirdre LaPorte, each lovely and a first-rate soloist in her own way.
Also, an ironic skit by Congress of Wonders, the pair of inventive head humorists who've been around through it all - at the Straight Theater on Haight Street, the Old Spaghetti Factory in North Beach, at the Fillmore on Fillmore and the Family Dog at the Avalon, on KSAN last year and Fantasy Records this - playing the parts of Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh as wasted old men on a park bench recalling the four-hour jams they played, decades ago, as "The Dreadful Great."
Garcia laughed along with everyone while Richard Rollins and Howard Kerr snorted and gagged their way through the skit; later he'd be bear-hugged by Nick Gravenites, doing the bop.
Luria Wright, five years on, is now a housewife and a mother of two, and hers is a campaign against lethargy and for energy. Starting with the artists, the musicians, the people who participated in the first Family Dog and Fillmore events. "The main idea was to let a lot of people know that we're all still alive, and can really have a good time. I really believe it's possible to make people who're all sleazed out and cynical to feel good."
With friends, Mrs. Wright staged the party at a cost of $40. Now, she hopes to do more. "I'd like to see either a private club evolve - or possibly do it on a mass scale, if we can get the proper people involved, so it doesn't become either an ego or a money trip. It'll be exclusive until people have it down. Till they're convinced they can do it to other people. It's just a matter of generation of juice."

Participating Sponsors: Magic Theater for Madmen Only, Cabale, the Family Dog, the Northern California Psychedelic Cattlemen's Association, Moustache Enterprises Inc., The Mystic Research Foundation, Travus T. Hipp's Rawhide Realities Review, the Pine St. Redevelopment Veterans Benevolent Society, anonymous members of E. Clampus Vitus, and - of course - The Nevada Chapter of the Peyote Chiefs Motorcycle Club and Zen Mine.

(from Rolling Stone, June 10 1971)

5 comments:

  1. It's non-Dead, but I included this for a couple reasons: one, because it was such a nostalgic event, the Family Dog saying goodbye to the sixties.
    And two, because of the skit with "Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh as wasted old men on a park bench recalling the four-hour jams they played, decades ago."
    Wish I could've seen it.

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  2. Much to my surprise, the Congress of Wonders actually recorded their skit of Jerry & Phil as wasted old men in the park, on the Revolting album in 1970:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4soyhpwA-A
    "I remember playing Lovelight for four hours, but Big Brother never showed up..."

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  3. Does anyone know how or where Luria Wright is now....?

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    1. She was named Luria Castell (now Luria Dickson); she's still a political activist I believe; occasionally she's interviewed for some '60s piece (like a Vanity Fair story last year); she had some health troubles back in 2007 & was asking for donations online; she posted one Family Dog comment here:
      http://berlinbites.blogspot.com/2005/06/chet-helms-rip.html
      And she's on facebook:
      https://www.facebook.com/auntyluria

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    2. Luria died a month ago so now only Ellen Harmon remains. If I can get in touch with her for permission, I am quite sure a fund raiser website is in order. Anybody?

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