UPDATE BEGINS HERE
Please also see additional update and retraction at end of story 9/15/2017
Before getting into this wonderful story let me share a wild update with you.
August 13th, 2017, I was inspired to write the story of Siegel-Schwall’s induction into the Summer of Love 1967 because of a phone conversation I had with the leader of a band that we opened for our first time in San Francisco. What I didn’t know until after I sent the story in my newsletter is that the night before PBS was airing a documentary on the Summer of Love for Frontline. On the same day of the post, without having seen it, a blues harmonica master sent me photos of Siegel-Schwall posters he saw earlier that day in San Francisco at a museum featuring the Summer of Love. Another fan who wandered into the museum sent me photos of posters and also had not seen my newsletter. And then I didn’t realize that this summer is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.
All of this inspired me to add 12 psychedelic Siegel-Schwall posters when we played the San Francisco Ballrooms. The last image is a video Mark Hummel sent me of the one 3D poster on exhibit. This poster (and the first image) was the very poster for the first concert with Siegel-Schwall in San Francisco with Jesse that is the focus of this amazing story. Enjoy!
Larger images and info available and ore information on these posters at Wolfgang's
ORIGINAL STORY BEGINS HERE
Just spoke with Jesse Colin Young this morning. Remember?
"Come on People now smile on your brother, everybody get together try and love one another right now."
Jesse is planning a trip to Chicago. We spent some time sharing memories.
Siegel-Schwall's first trip to San Francisco was in the Summer of Love 1967. Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, and Nick Gravenites, insisted we must get out there to experience a cultural flash that is mind-blowing. We ended up playing San Francisco's Avalon Ballroom and opened the show for the Youngbloods with Jesse Colin Young. This was also Jesse's first time in SF and we talked about how we were both blown away by the whole scene - the culture shock and all.
NOTE: Any questions or comments, see below.
Hanging with Janis Joplin, Big Brother, The Airplane.
I got little advance taste of the 1967 Summer of Love back in 1966 in Chicago when I was asked to pick up Janis Joplin and Big Brother from the Chicago airport and bring them to Mother Blues for their first Chicago performance. I was the only person known to have a big enough van for the job. As far as Janis and her group knew, I was just a driver. Janis and Big Brother didn't know I was in a band playing at Big Johns but they were very nice to me as the driver and we enjoyed hanging out during their visit. They did come see Siegel-Schwall at Big Johns at one point. After Janis and her group left Chicago I was asked to pick up Jefferson Airplane. They didn't want to speak with the driver. LOL! But later in SF they would often ask me to sit in with them.
Summer of Love
So here we are, it's the Summer of Love 1967 driving to San Francisco from Chicago.
"Come on people now, smile on your brother everybody get together try and love one another right now"
& "If you're going to San Francisco be sure to wear a flower in your hair ..."
These were the words and music filling our van on the trip creating rushes of excitement for what we were about to experience. And now we are approaching the Bay Bridge and beautiful San Francisco looms in the distance as we all sing;
"I left my heart in San Francisco,"
... and now it's Tony Bennett taking us home to a place we've never been. Goosebumps!
We spent some extra time getting to the Avalon Ballroom because our van didn't want to go up any steep hills that climbed "half-way to the stars." We realized at some point there was actually no way to avoid the hills and eventually our van got used to looking straight up to the sky and was no longer as fearful - with at least one of our many feet on the break all the time.
Alice in Wonderland
We pulled in the back of the Avalon and the double doors opened. We were greeted by a puff of incense and a hit of patchouli oil (we learned quickly about patchouli oil), as a very tall and handsome African American with a giant "natural" hair-dome presentation filled the height of the doors and welcomed us with such grace. He wore a sleeveless coat that ran right down to his ankles - it was lined with giant buttons. He stepped right out of Alice in Wonderland from the other side of the looking glass. This one visual was burnt in our retinas and stuck in our minds the rest of our lives. In the next moments we found ourselves soaring down the rabbit hole not returning to earth until we found ourselves back in Chicago a month later.. I don't remember having seen our tall hippie again after that one moment of awe and we all wondered in our later years;
"Was this all real or we were having a 'contact' high from all the psychedelics in the air."
Siegel-Schwall was a big hit and we became part of the scene very quickly. We were eventually managed by Chet Helms and Family Dog Productions, the central founding figures in the whole hippie music scene. So we were in the middle of it all. And boy do I have some stories to tell there!
But the inspiration for this story was the call with Jesse and the image of the tall hippie form popping right back into my mind. As it turns out, at a performance with Chamber Blues in St. Thomas in 2005 this tall hippie introduces himself ;
"Hi Corky, I'm James Grayer. I'm the guy that welcomed you in the back alley of the Avalon Ballroom in 1967."
After my really fun conversations with Jesse I sent him this photo of that 2005 meeting with the magical spirit that greeted us. I wanted you all to see it.
P.S. Another update: On Sept 18th, in Denver at the performance venue I was appearing at, I was interviewed by a film company that was doing a documentary on the Summer of Love and it's association with Family Dog in Denver. The week before they interviewed James Grayer!
Ok. Ok! I just spoke with James Grayer the next day on September 19th, 2017 and he informed me that it was not at the Avalon in San Francisco that he met us but later that year (still the Summer of Love) in Denver at The Family Dog. (Family Dog was another concert hall run by Chet Helms and the Family Dog company. James was Vice President). Well, so much for my memory.
Please feel free to question, comment or contact me personally.