John Sebastian Woodstock

John Sebastian Woodstock

Other than music and rain, it seems the Woodstock’s one common thread was the nearly constant between-set requests to those who had climbed on the light towers to please come down. Whether it was Chip Monck or John Morris doing announcements, there was always a typically polite request to get off the towers.

And so Monck did several times before John Sebastian, an unscheduled guest, the third of the festival (Melanie and Country Joe), and the second of the day appeared.

John was a spectator. Not planning on playing,  but ready and willing to jump in and help out. He performed solo.

It was about 3:30 PM and his 24-minute set was:

  • How Have You Been
  • Rainbows All Over Your Blues
  • I Had A Dream
  • Darlin’ Be Home Soon
  • Younger Generation
John Sebastian Woodstock

How Have You Been

John Sebastian Woodstock

Reprise Records would not release John’s first solo album, John B Sebastian,  until January 1970, but three of the five songs he sang would be on that album. This was one.

Because the songs were still young, because John was still young (25), because life at Woodstock was often enhanced, the published lyrics of songs and the lyrics John sang do not always co-inside.

Thank you. I don’t know how amazing you look, but you’re truly amazing, you’re a whole city. And somehow you’re something that an awful lot of us talked about 8 and 10 years ago in little living rooms…I have a song for you.” John Sebastian

He begins singing a cappella, then uses his guitar.

How have you been my darling children,
While I have been away in the west?
Though you are strangers,
I feel that I know you.
By the way that you treat me and offer to feed me and eagerly ask if I’ll stay for a rest.
Now sit yourselves down in a pile here before me.
I wish I had presents for each of your smiles.
I have been traveling,
Without much to carry.
Just a broken guitar case with tape on the sides,
A bag and a few signs to help me get rides.
Here are some beads from a throat of a princess,
Who reigned in the years ’round 200 BC.
Divide them and wear them,
And make sure you share them.
Because I want you to have them in hopes that’ll be,
As lovely as the lady who gave them to me.
Here is a strange European guitar string,
I found on the floor of a Club in Marseilles.
It’s fat for the third string and too skinny for the fourth string.
But I keep in hopes I may use it someday,
It’s funny how people just keep things that way.
Here is a turtle from a Long Island Expressway.
Says that his home has been covered with tar.
So I gave him a ride on the back of my suitcase.
And he wants to stay here in your yard,
At long his life won’t be quite so hard.

How have you been my darling children?

John Sebastian Woodstock

Rainbows All Over Your Blues

Rainbows All Over Your Shoes was also on John’s first album. John tells a story about having just coming back from California and living in a tent there. That a woman taught him how to tie-dye and John is one of the two performers (Joe Cocker being the other) who prominently wore tye-dye clothing, unlike most in the crowd where little if any such style could be found.

“A cloth house is all you need if you got love.”

I’ve been waitin’ my time, just to talk to you
You been lookin’ all down at the mouth, and down at your shoes
Well bay – ee – aby, I come to give you the news
I’ll paint rainbows all over your blues
I heard you been spendin’ a lot of your time, up in your room
And at night you’ve been watchin’ the dark side of the moon
You don’t talk to nobody, if they don’t talk to you
So Buddy and me came here to sing you a tune
I give up, is all you’ve really got to say
Well, it’s time to find a new life style
‘Cause this really ain’t the way
Let’s go for a bounce on my trampoline
I can show you the prettiest mountains that you’ve ever seen
You better run to your closet
And fish out your blue suede shoes
‘Cause I’ll paint rainbows all over your blues

John Sebastian Woodstock

I Had A Dream

His third song is the third of the three that would appear on that aforementioned solo album.

In many ways, John’s heartfelt spoken words sum up the sense that “we” had arrived and it was special.

“Far out. Far around. Far down. Far up. I’d like you to hear a tune about…I guess about those discussions that I was talking about that I seem to have had in so many small circles of friends around living rooms, around pipes when they weren’t selling no papers on the street and we weren’t walking around this beautiful green place…smokin’ and ah…not being afraid. This is about all of us. I love you people.”

I had a dream last night
What a lovely dream it was
I dreamed we all were alright
Happy in a land of Oz
Why did everybody laugh
When I told them my dream
I guess they all were so far
From that kind of scene
Feeling mean
I heard a song last night
What a lovely song it was
I thought I’d hum it all night
Unforgettable because
All of the players were playing together
And all of the heavies were light as a feather
All I remember is a feeling tomorrow
And as I recall the rest will just follow
I had a dream last night
What a lovely dream it was
I dreamed we all were alright
Happy in a land of Oz.

John Sebastian Woodstock

Darlin’ Be Home Soon

Sebastian had, as everyone there was well aware, been the leader of the very successful Lovin’ Spoonful spectators call out such requests. His next song was one of their hits.

“Oh man, there’s a half a million people and they’re all singing a hundred songs. I tell you what, I’m gonna’ sing a song that’s a kind of a goodbye song…but it’s not a all-the-way goodbye song. It’s just that ah…it’s kinda’ like a 15-20 minute goodbye song because we’re all here and we’re gonna stay here, let it all keep on happening. Stay here until it’s over.”

The crowd applauded as soon as he began to strum the well-known song. I had learned the word “dawdled” from this song

Come and talk of all the things we did today
Here and laugh about our funny little ways
While we have a few minutes to breathe
And I know that it’s time you must leave, but darling be home soon
I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
My darling be home soon
It’s not just these few hours but I’ve been waiting since I toddled
For the great relief of having you to talk toAnd now, a quarter of my life is almost passed
I think I’ve come to see myself at last
And I see that the time spent confused
Was the time that I spent without you
And I feel myself in gloomSo darling be home soon
I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
My darling be home soon
It’s not just these few hours but I’ve been waiting since I toddled
For the great relief of having you to talk toSo darling…
My darling be home soon
I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
My darling be home soon
It’s not just these few hours but I’ve been waiting since I toddled
For the great relief of having you to talk to

Go and beat your crazy head against the sky
Try and see beyond the houses and your eyes
It’s OK to shoot the moon

Darling be home soon
I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
My darling be home soon
It’s not just these few hours but I’ve been waiting since I toddled
For the great relief of having you to talk to.

John Sebastian Woodstock

Younger Generation

He told the crowd that they were all beautiful, but Chip Monck asks him back as the crowd continues to cheer and applaud.

“Oh boy. This is really a mindfucker of all time. I’ve never seen anything like this, man…just love everybody around ya’ and clean up a little garbage on your way out and everything gonna’ be alright. The press can only say bad things if there ain’t no fuckups.”

He dedicates the song to the announcement that someone was having a baby saying, “This kid’s gonna be far out.

Why must every generation think their folks are square
And no matter where their heads are they know mom’s ain’t there
‘Cause I swore when I was small that I’d remember when
I knew what’s wrong with them that I was smaller than
Determined to remember all the cardinal rules
Like sun showers are legal grounds for skipping school
I know I have forgotten maybe one or two
But  I hope that I recall them all before the baby’s due
And I know he’ll have a question or two
Like “Hey Pop, can I go ride my zoom
It goes two hundred miles an hour suspended on balloons
And can I put a droplet of this new stuff on my tongue
And imagine frothing dragons while you sit and wreck your lungs”
And I must be permissive, understanding of the younger generation
Then I’ll know that all I’ve learned my kid assumes
And all my deepest worries must be his cartoons
And still I’ll try to tell them him all the things I’ve done
Relating to what he can do when he becomes a man
And still he’ll stick his fingers in the fan
And “Hey, Pop, my girlfriend’s only three
She’s got her own videophone and she’s taking L.S.D.
And now that we’re best friends she wants to give a taste to me
But what’s the matter Daddy, how come you’re looking man?
Can it be that you can’t live up to your dreams?”

John Sebastian Woodstock

Rockarama at the Avalon

Rockarama at the Avalon

1969 Festival #1
5 Days of Music

Wednesday 26 March 1969

to

Sunday 30 March 1969

Knowing my interest in 1969 festivals in particular, friends send a link to a festival from that year. Most of the time, the festival is already on my list, but every once in a while, something new pops up.

I think I have all of what I personally define as a festival: outdoors and multi-day events that mainly showcase rock groups, keeping in mind how the definition of rock music had broadened by then.

I include Rockarama. Even though it does not meet my admittedly narrow definition, it’s close enough to deserve at least a mention.

Having said that, a mention of the event itself is all it can get since there’s little information I can find about it. Instead, I include something about the bands themselves and include a YouTube link if one is available, though not from Rockarama itself.

Given band’s styles and YouTube samples available, the five days must have been very nice.

Rockarama at the Avalon

Wednesday 26 March

Santana

Of course, Santana was simply another band on March 36, 1969. Obviously a great band and a mostly unknown band. They didn’t know that they were five months from fame.

It’s a Beautiful Day: from an AllMusic bio: San Francisco psychedelic folk-rock unit It’s a Beautiful Day was primarily the vehicle of virtuoso violinist David LaFlamme. After beginning his musical education at age five, LaFlamme later served as a soloist with the Utah Symphony, following an army stint by settling in the Bay Area in 1962. There he immersed himself in the local underground music scene, jamming alongside the likes of Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin; after his short-lived Electric Chamber Orchestra splintered, LaFlamme also co-founded an early incarnation of Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks before assembling It’s a Beautiful Day in mid-1967. The group — which originally included LaFlamme’s keyboardist wife Linda, vocalist Pattie Santos, guitarist Hal Wagenet, bassist Mitchell Holman, and drummer Val Fuentes — issued its self-titled debut LP on Columbia in 1969, scoring their biggest hit with the haunting FM radio staple “White Bird.” 

Rockarama at the Avalon
Allmen Joy

From a Darius…site: If Blue Cheer made cream cheese outta the air, then these guys musta crystalised the heavens on a good night. Some kind of a mix of Blue Cheer & Big Brother guitars, Country Joe & The Fish style ethereal moves & organ, & occasional Dead-like feedback & vocal insanity, mixed with 60s garage sounds & a nod to the Chambers Brothers… 60s West Coast manna from the vault.

Rockarama at the Avalon
The Lamb

From an AllMusic reviewLamb were formed by the duo of Texan singer Mauritz and multi-instrumentalist (though primarily guitarist) Bob Swanson. The two (writing both separately and together) was responsible for the band’s material. They attracted attention in San Francisco when they opened for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for a few nights at Winterland in November 1969. Impresario Bill Graham became their manager, and producer David Rubinson, who had worked with notable groups such as Santana and Moby Grape, acted in that capacity for their first record. Their debut album on the Fillmore label, A Sign of Change, was perhaps their most uncompromising and experimental, relying largely on jazz-folk acoustic arrangements and spotlighting Mauritz’s impressive voice on impressionistic, dream-like lyrics. 

Rockarama at the Avalon
Anonymous Artists of America

From a red-legacy article:The story of the AAA is fantastic. Their endeavor to be a band was jump-started by several gifts: the first was a full set of instruments financed by one of the artists, Lars Kampman, which was followed by Owsley Stanley’s gift of 100,000 micrograms of (then legal) LSD. They were also given the second music synthesizer in the US by Don Buchla, its inventor, which took a year to build out at the highly influential Tape Music Center in San Francisco. The AAA were one of the first psychedelic bands at a time when rock and roll was redefined through massive advances in amplification technology and by music labels, like Capital Records who commissioned LSD fueled projects. The AAA frequently opened for the Grateful Dead and headlined at Ken Kesey’s notorious Acid Test Graduation. Their performances went on for hours and weren’t especially good, involving costumes and a topless bassist, handmade instruments and spontaneous improvisations that mixed with strobe lights and film projections, turning the show into a multi-sensory immersive experience.  

Rockarama at the Avalon

Thursday 27 March

Cleveland Wrecking Company

From the Roartorio site: The Cleveland Wrecking Company were formed in San Francisco in 1965. Their members came from jazz, flamenco and R&B backgrounds, but together their psychedelic brew verged on Blue Cheer heaviness. As perennial local favorites, they gigged at every stage in the area. They left behind no recorded artifacts during this time; a deal with Vanguard went nowhere, when their manager absconded to Mexico with the album advance on an ill-fated mission to buy a kilo of pot. A later incarnation of the band – with a completely different lineup and musical style – released a 45 that has since become a favorite of cratedigging DJs, but This is not That. These two tracks [follow link above] hail from 1967-8 : one studio, one live (the sonics on the latter may remind of the VU’s “guitar amp” boot, but with a solo as overdriven and atonal as this, it’s a plus). 

Rockarama at the Avalon
Ace of Cups

From their site: The Ace of Cups formed in San Francisco in 1967 and has been described as one of the first all-female rock bands. The members of the Ace of Cups were Mary Gannon (bass), Marla Hunt (organ, piano), Denise Kaufman (guitar, harmonica), Mary Ellen Simpson (lead guitar), and Diane Vitalich (drums). Making their mark in the burgeoning counterculture of the 1960’s, they shared stages with Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead.

Rockarama at the Avalon
The Conqueroo

From a psychedelicbaby articleThe Conqueroo were Ed Guinn (bass and keyboards), Charlie Pritchard (lead guitar), Bob Brown (guitar and lead vocals) and what seemed like a never-ending succession of drummers, who included Gerry Storm and Alvin Sykes. Somehow whilst the Elevators and co. all got deals at the time, the Conqueroo only got to release one 45 on Sonobeat and a posthumous LP put out in the 80s, From the Vulcan Gas Company.. The band was known for its blues based psychedelia, particularly its fuzzed-out, free form jams and wonderful deconstructed cover versions such as ‘Knock on Wood’ and ‘Positively Fourth Street’.

Rockarama at the Avalon
Morning Glory

From an AllMusic review: The popularity of California rock bands with both female and male vocals was simply immense in the wake of the Mamas & the Papas and Jefferson Airplane. Morning Glory pay significant tribute to both bands on “Two Suns Worth,” their obscure and only LP, though you can certainly hear some Byrds in some of the guitar licks, as well as traces of Bay Area psychedelic groups like Moby Grape in some of the arrangements. It’s well-sung (with the sole woman in the group, Gini Graybeal, handling most of the lead vocals) and tightly played, with Abe “Voco” Kesh, most famous for his work with Blue Cheer, handling the production.

Rockarama at the Avalon

Friday 28 March

Melting Pot

I can find a song by this name by the UK band called Blue Mink from 1969, but cannot find a band by this name. Anyone?

Rockarama at the Avalon
Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band

The band was descended from the Instant Action Jug Band (November 1964 – November 1965), which included Joe McDonald in its original lineup. Cleanliness and Godliness formed in December 1966 and went through various personnel changes. In March 1969, the band consisted of Judy Linsky (flute), Richard Saunders (bass), Tom Ralston (drums), Gary Salzman (dobro, mandolin), Phil Marsh (guitar, vocals), Annie Johnston (guitar, vocals), and Brian Voorheis (harmonica, guitar, vocals). The Chicken On a Unicycle site has a very thorough tree showing the band’s various permutations.

Rockarama at the Avalon
Linn County

From Iowa Rock and Roll site: Linn County had its roots in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with Danceland and Armar Ballrooms providing a meeting place for musicians. Stephen Miller – organ, piano, vocals, Fred Walk – electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, Dino Long – bass, Jerome “Snake” McAndrew – drums, Larry Easter – soprano & tenor saxophone, & Jay Magliori – baritone saxophone.  All Music saidAn unusual late-’60s band that combined horn-embellished soul-rock with more interesting material utilizing jazz-colored arrangements and somewhat spacy songwriting. There were few parallels for this kind of thing at the time, other than perhaps the only slightly less obscure Insect Trust. A minor group, but at their best an intriguing one.

Rockarama at the Avalon
The 4th Way

From Springer link siteFormed in 1968, musical group The Fourth Way was among the first bands to merge rock, jazz, and non-Western musical approaches in a way that mirrored the mixed-race membership of the band—white New Zealander pianist Mike Nock, black American violinist Michael White, white American bassist Ron McClure, and black American drummer Eddie Marshall—a notable feature at the time. The band’s eponymous debut and their second release, a live recording titled The Sun and Moon Have Come Together, were recorded in the fall of 1969. Their final recording,  Werwolf, was a live recording of their appearance in the 1970 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. However, with the exception of a small number of dates clustered around the band’s appearance in Montreux, The Fourth Way rarely performed outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, limiting their exposure. 

Rockarama at the Avalon
Deadly Nightshade

There is a band called Deadly Nightshade, but it formed in 1970 from an all-female band called Ariel, so I’m pretty sure they didn’t play Rockarama. There was a Deadly Nightshade lightshow out of San Francisco at this time, so… Here’s a bit about thatIn 1967 and 1968, Deadly Nightshade [originally] consisted of myself [the author never identifies himself] , Carolyn Bunch, Tom Stewart, John Bossi and Bob Kano. Our equipment was a couple of overhead projectors with 650 watt halogen lamps, six manual slide projectors, an old 8mm film projector, and various special effects devices for doing reflectives.  We did shows at the UOP and towns around the San Joaquin Valley, but mostly at the club in Stockton. The bands we played with were mostly local, but occasionally we would get gigs with bands from LA (the Liquid Blues, Smoke) or the Bay Area (Steve Miller Band), who were touring through the California Valley. Starting in 1969 Deadly Nightshade focused on performing more in the Bay Area, including Napa,  Santa Rosa, Davis, Hayward, San Jose and San Francisco. Because we were new in the scene we made an effort to do anything we could for exposure and engagement. We were lucky to work with the San Francisco Tape Music Center and Don Buchla. We helped them produce the Pillow Show, and staged it in the newly renovated Exhibition Hall at the Palace of Fine Arts. The lightshow was projected on the outside of an inflatable translucent plastic “pillow” with capacity for about 20 people listening and viewing from the inside at one time. The effect was disorienting, but very much of the times.

Rockarama at the Avalon

Saturday 29 March

Shades of Joy

From AllMusic: The mysterious Shades of Joy recorded the wholly instrumental album The Music of El Topo in San Francisco, the LP finding release on the Douglas label in 1970. …it’s an odd but listenable mix of early jazz-rock fusion, psychedelia, funk, and the kind of meditatively somber and pretty music you might expect to hear on the soundtrack to a period drama. And in fact most of the compositions are credited to film director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who was responsible for the early-’70s cult film El Topo. Fifteen musicians are credited with playing on the album, the most noted of them being occasional Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia sideman Howard Wales (on electric keyboards), though there are also numerous percussionists, brassmen, and flutists; in fact, there are three combination flutist/tenor saxophonists alone. Martin Fierro (who played flute, tenor sax, alto sax, and cowbells, as well as being credited as a “scratcher”) seems to have been the musician most involved with the project, also doing the orchestration and horn arrangements. 

Rockarama at the Avalon
Clover

From Discogs site: Clover had a two part career, the first in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in the US and the second in the later 1970’s in the UK. The group was formed in San Francisco in 1967 when Johnny Ciambotti joined up with John McFee, Alex Call and Mitch Howie who were members of a group called the Tiny Hearing Aid Company. Clover’s first gig was July 4 1967. They performed around the Bay Area over the next two years eventually signing with Fantasy in 1969. They recorded two albums and one single for Fantasy in the early 1970’s. Eventually an expanded line-up of the group moved to the UK in 1975 or early 1976. There they released two further albums, and (uncredited) backed Elvis Costello on his debut album My Aim Is True (1977). The group broke up in 1978 after returning to the US. The group is most well known outside the US for their version of Route ’66 in the Levis Jeans commercial. Around 1976, Huey Lewis joined this band (credited as Huey Louis) and appeared on the two final Clover albums released 1977.

Rockarama at the Avalon
Country Weather

From AllMusic: Country Weather was one of the minor bands that were part of the San Francisco music scene of the mid- to late ’60s. The group was formed in the San Francisco suburb of Walnut Creek, CA, by high school students Dave Carter (bass and vocals) and Steve Derr (rhythm guitar and vocals) as a cover band called the Virtues in 1966. They were joined by Paul White (lead guitar) and Craig T. Nelson (drums) (not the actor of the same name), who were soon replaced by Greg Douglass and Bill Baron. In 1967, they auditioned for promoter Chet Helms, who suggested they change their name and stop playing covers. Soon after, they became Country Weather. Over the next few years, they played frequently at such San Francisco venues as the Avalon Ballroom, the Fillmore Auditorium, and Winterland, opening for many of the renowned acid rock bands of the day, as well as up and down the West Coast. But they were never signed to a national record contract. In 1969, they recorded their own one-sided, five-song disc, which earned airplay on local radio stations.

Rockarama at the Avalon
Fruminous Bandersnatch

From Psychedelicized site from Lafayette, CA, Frumious Bandersnatch is often said to be one of the most underrated bands to emerge from the San Francisco scene in the late 60s. Their sole EP is regarded as one of the better offerings of the period that should have found much greater success. Originally known as All Night Flight, they changed their name in 1967 to Frumious Bandersnatch after a character in the Lewis Carroll poem ‘Jabberwocky’. Original members included Dave Denny (lead guitar, vocals), Jack King (drums, vocals), Brian Hough (bass) and George Tickner (guitar). Denny soon left the band for a brief period and was replaced by Kaja Doria (vocals) and Bret Wilmot (guitar). It was this lineup that first recorded the band’s material, including an early version of ‘Cheshire’. Nothing was officially issued at the time.

Rockarama at the Avalon

Sunday 30 March

Youngbloods

From AllMusic: The Youngbloods could not be considered a major ’60s band, but they were capable of offering some mighty pleasurable folk-rock in the late ’60s, and produced a few great tunes along the way. One of the better groups to emerge from the East Coast in the mid-’60s, they would temper their blues and jug band influences with gentle California psychedelia, particularly after they moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. For most listeners, they’re identified almost exclusively with their Top Ten hit “Get Together,” but they managed several respectable albums as well, all under the leadership of singer/songwriter Jesse Colin Young

Rockarama at the Avalon
A.B. Skhy

From AllMusic: A.B. Skhy was a blues-rock quartet from San Francisco consisting of guitarist Dennis Geyer, keyboard player Howard Wales, bass player Jim Marcotte, and drummer Terry Andersen. This lineup made the group’s debut album, A.B. Skhy, in 1969, with a seven-piece horn section. The album failed to chart, but the instrumental “Camel Back” hit number 100 on the Hot 100 for one week in December. Andersen and Wales then left and were replaced by guitarist James “Curley” Cooke and drummer Rick Jaeger for the group’s second album, Ramblin’ On (1970), which was produced by Kim Fowley. They broke up during the recording of their third album.

Rockarama at the Avalon

Initial Shock

From Psychedelicized siteOriginally formed in 1966 as The Chosen Few, The Initial Shock was a psychedelic rock band from Missoula, Montana.  Composed of members from Missoula bands Mojo’s Mark IV and The Vulcans, the band changed its name to The Initial Shock in 1967, moving to San Francisco that same year. The band only produced two records during their incredible time together as a band. “Mind Disaster” b/w “It’s Not Easy” and “You’ve Been a Long time Coming” backed with “I Once Asked”. Both were regional hits in the western USA and also in the Top 10 Southern Survey where the lead singer, Mojo Collins was, and still is from. Members of the band included Mojo Collins, (guitar, lead vocals), Brian Knaff, (drums, vocals),George F. Wallace, (lead guitar), Steve Garr, (bass) and George A. Crowe (road manager).

Rockarama at the Avalon
Alice Cooper

The now well-know band had just recently become “Alice Cooper”  and would release their first album in June. From WikipediaOriginating in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1964, “Alice Cooper” was originally a band with roots extending back to a band called The Earwigs 1964, consisting of Vincent Furnier [Alice Cooper] on vocals and harmonica, Glen Buxton on lead guitar, and Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar and background vocals. By 1966, Michael Bruce on rhythm guitar joined the three and Neal Smith was added on drums in 1967. The five named the band ‘Alice Cooper’ and released their debut album in 1969 with limited chart success.

Rockarama at the Avalon
Pure Funk

A popular Indiana college funk band, founded in 1969 by keyboard player, Michael Read, vocalist, Asher “Adam Smasher” Benrubi, and guitarist, Rob Swaynie. The band later became the more successful Roadmaster. Fifty years later…

Poster Art: Gilbert Shelton

Gilbert Shelton‘s talents surfaced early with his silly superhero spoof ‘Wonder Warthog’ which was published in a campus magazine in 1959 (Ranger). In May 1968 he introduced ‘The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers’ in the newspaper Rag, starring Phineas, Freewheelin’ Franklin and Fat Freddy.

Rockarama at the Avalon

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

March 24, 1919 – February 22, 2021

Ferlinghetti from The Band’s Last Waltz concert, 25 November 1976 

This site springs from my having attended the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, my being a volunteer at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, and doing an assignment on protest music.

What I immediately found out with the assignment was protest music had roots deep in the 20th century and branches into the 21st  and that I’d need to put the music in context.

Context is a wide concept and many people, places, and events come under it.

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

Lawrence

From the City Lights siteLawrence Ferlinghetti wrote poetry, translation, fiction, theater, art criticism, film narration, and essays. Often concerned with politics and social issues, Ferlinghetti’s poetry countered an elitist conception of art and the artist’s role in the world. Although his poetry is often concerned with everyday life and civic themes, it is never simply personal or polemical, and it stands on his grounding in tradition and universal reach.

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

Iron Curtain/Cold War

On March 5, 1946, less than a year after the Allied victory in Europe,  ominous signs already pointed to future conflicts. Winston Churchill, the United Kingdom’s  Prime Minister, condemned the Soviet Union’s policies in Europe and declared, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”  [full text]

The new normal had a new name: the Cold War.

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

Military-Industrial Complex

On January 17, 1961 even outgoing President Eisenhower, a conservative, a Republican, and a World War II hero spoke of that the new military buildup and both that path’s pitfalls and its consequences.

In his farewell address to the nation, Eisenhower warned  Americans to be aware a developing and worrisome post-war  relationship between the government and the private sector.

He understood the need for having a prepared military (a lesson learned from World War II), but he was troubled about “the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.”   Eisenhower worried that the entangled cooperation between the government, its military, and industry could weaken or destroy the very institutions and principles it was designed to protect.

Military-industrial complex: another new term in the World’s new normal.

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

Beat Generation/Beatniks

In the wake of the War’s end, some young Americans were disenchanted, not with the victory over Fascism, but with the path down which that victory led us.

Their reaction was both a repudiation and an avowal. Repudiating the pursuit of materialism (the more you have he more successful you are, the better a person you are) and searching in other directions: Easter religions, use of psychedelics,  sexual liberation, organic diets, and other non-conformist attitudes.

The Beats are most often associated with their writers:   Herbert Huncke, Allen  Ginsberg,  William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr, and Jack Kerouac — who met in 1944 in and around the Columbia University campus in New York City.

Kerouac (who also credits Huncke) is credited with the use of the word “beat” to refer to the view. It fit nicely both with its common meaning as with beaten or tired, but with a poetic twist, it also calls forth the idea of beatific and upbeat.

Society mocked such views and easily demonized those who pursued them. In the 50s, adding -ik to anything connected it with Bolshevik, Sputnik, and all its negative Communist associations.

Because of its perceived subversiveness, New York City unsuccessfully tried to ban folk musicians from playing in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square in the early 1960s.

But, I’m getting off the topic of Ferlinghetti. Context.

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

NY > France > NY

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born on March 24, 1919 in Yonkers, NY. Carlo Ferlinghetti from Brescia, Italy and Clemence Mendes-Monsanto a French-Portuguese Sephardic Jew. Lawrence was the fifth Ferlinghetti son. His father had died six months earlier. He was in his 50s and suffered a heart attack on the stoop of his house.

His mother suffered depression and his Aunt Emilie and her husband (his mother’s brother) took him in and they moved to France, near Strasbourg. He forgot English and learned French. He lived there until he was three.

They returned to New York in 1922. The uncle disappeared, Aunt Emilie couldn’t provide for Lawrence, so the state placed him in an orphanage for a year. He returned to live with Emilie in a year as she had found work as a governess for Presley and Anna Bisland, but in 1926 she disappeared. The family he was living with sent him to Riverdale School for Boys.  He was 5½.

A couple of years later, the family had Lawrence live with a Zilla Larned Wilson, an unrelated widow. in Bronxville. He then attended public school and did well, particularly when he joined basketball and was part of its championship team.

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

UNC > USN

But he also found friend who found stealing fun.  From a Wall St Journal articleAnna Bisland stepped in and sent me to Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. When I was there, it was a farm school. The students—mostly missionaries’ sons—worked in the barns and fields. Mount Hermon was a tough academic school. I was exposed to poetry for the first time, and T.S. Eliot was a big inspiration.

He attended Chapel Hill University in North Carolina as Lawrence Ferling where he majored in journalism and received his AB in 1941.  He began his career in journalism by writing sports for The Daily Tar Heel, and he published his first short stories in Carolina Magazine, for which Thomas Wolfe had written.

After graduation and before Pearl Harbor, he joined the Navy. As a Lieutenant Commander he was part of the Normandy invasion and later arrived in Nagasaki shortly after the atomic bomb was dropped. Those experiences became the basis for a lifelong antiwar view.

After the war, he attended Columbia University and in 1947 received his MA in English literature. He then received his Doctorate de l’Université de Paris (Sorbonne) in 1950. He had met his future wife, Selden Kirby-Smith, on the ship sailing over, who was also going to attend the French university.

His dissertation, in French, was about images of cities in modern poetry.

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

San Francisco/City Lights

Ferlinghetti went to San Francisco in 1951 where he taught French in an adult education program, painted, and wrote art criticism. He was  joined there by his fiancée, Selden, known as Kirby, and the two were married. The marriage would last until 1976 and produced two children, Julie and Lorenzo.

In 1953, he and Peter Martin, the publisher of City Lights magazine–named after the 1930 silent film by screen comedian Charlie Chaplin–opened City Lights bookstore in San Francisco’s North Beach. It was  the country’s first all-paperback bookstore as a way to provide easier access to quality literature. It was also a gathering place for the neighborhood and other writers.

They hired Shigeyoshi “Shig” Murao as a clerk. Murao worked without pay at first, but eventually became manager of the store and was a key element in creating the unique feel of City Lights.

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

Howl

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked”

In 1955, Ferlinghetti launched City Lights Publishers. His own career as a poet began with publication of Pictures of the Gone World in 1955.

On October 7, 1955, he was at the Six Gallery in San Francisco when Allen Ginsberg gave the first reading of “Howl.”

Jack Kerouac fictionalized and described the event in his 1958 novel, The Dharma Bums. Ginsburg became Alvah Goldbrook and Howl became Wail.

Anyway I followed the whole gang of howling poets to the reading at Gallery Six that night, which was, among other important things, the night of the birth of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. Everyone was there. It was a mad night. And I was the one who got things jumping by going around collecting dimes and quarters from the rather stiff audience standing around in the gallery and coming back with three huge gallon jugs of California Burgundy and getting them all piffed so that by eleven o’clock when Alvah Goldbrook was reading his poem ‘Wail’ drunk with arms outspread everybody was yelling ‘Go! Go! Go!’ (like a jam session) and old Rheinhold Cacoethes the father of the Frisco poetry scene was wiping his tears in gladness.

Ferlinghetti asked Ginsberg for the manuscript promising to publish it.  Ferlinghetti had launched City Lights Publishers in 1956, he published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

From a Guardian article]: Before publication Ferlinghetti…[gave]…a manuscript to the American Civil Liberties Union asking them for support if he was prosecuted. The ACLU agreed. When a batch of books was seized by US Customs [on 25 March 1957] he was arrested for importing obscene literature. “They had been printed in England because it was much cheaper and much better quality. But when they grabbed them, we were ready.”

Those charges would be dropped, but on June 3, 1957, two undercover San Francisco police officers arrested Shig Mauro for selling a copy of Howl and Other Poems. He would say, “Imagine being arrested for selling poetry!”

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

People vs Ferlinghetti

On October 3, 1957 Ferlinghetti won the case when California State Superior Court Judge Clayton Horn decided that the poem was of “redeeming social importance”

Horn’s opinion was that the State had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that the book was obscene and that the defendants had wilfully an dlewdly committed the alleged crime.

The decision stands a a cornerstone of free speech and is as important as Judge John M. Woolsey  in United States vs One Book Called “Ulysses” on December 6, 1933.

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti

63 Years

Ferlinghetti was 38 at the time of the Howl victory.  He would live for another 63 years and though his fame may sprout from that trial, he continued to be a spokesman for free speech and described as the spiritual father of the Beat movement.

He never stopped writing. He never stopped publishing.

Thank you for your moral strength and steady example.

Lawrence M Ferlinghetti