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.
A little history here. A.B. Skhy were a great psychedelic/blues band originally from milwaukee, wisconsin, and soonrelocated in san francisco. They included in their line-up howard wales, well known for his work with jerry garcia, russell dashell later in the crowfoot, band that was also including don francisco, well known for his work with damon in a band called highway robbery, and terry andersen, later with harvey mandel, plus other musicians that ended to play with fellows like steve miller and elvin bishop. AB Skhy recorded 2 really fine lp’s for MGM, the first just called AB SKHY and the second RAMBLIN’ ON.
Led by singer/multi-instrumentalist Wayne Ceballos, the little know Aum stand as also-rans in the lexicon of sixties San Francisco bands. With drummer Larry Martin and bassist Ken Newell rounding out the trio, the group’s initial reputation stemmed from their jam-oriented concerts.
Initially signed by the London-affiliated Sire label, as one would expect from the title, the group’s 1969’s Bluesvibes found them working in a distinctively blues-vein. Reflecting the band’s live act, the Richard Gotthrer produced debut featured a series of seven extended jams, (the shortest song clocking in at four minutes). With Ceballos writing the majority of the material, in spite of period excesses (e.g. aimless soloing), originals such as Mississippi Mud and Chilli Woman weren’t half bad. Moreover, Ceballos proved a decent singer, injecting considerable energy into his performances. Among the few short-comings, the band’s ponderous cover of John Loudermilk’s Tobacco Road would’ve been suitable for Vanilla Fudge.
One of the first acts to be signed to Bill Graham’s Fillmore label, 1969’s Resurrection teamed the band with producer David Rubinson. As one might have guessed from the album title (let alone the back cover which showed three crosses), their sophomore effort found the band pursuing a pseudo-religious agenda. In spite of occasionally clunky lyrics and an irritating degree of echo, Ceballos-penned material such as God Is Back In Town, the ballad Only I Know and Today And Tomorrow wasn’t too bad. Boasting a nifty Ceballos guitar solo, the stately title track is the stand-out cut. Elsewhere, the driving Bye Bye Baby and Little Brown Hen recall Quicksilver Messenger Service. Certainly not likely to get top-40 airplay, but San Francisco certainly turned out worse sounding bands. Commercially the band did nothing; the trio calling it quits shortly thereafter. In 1975, Larry Martin would play with Charlie Musselwhite.
THE BLUES PROJECT
The Blues Project was a band from the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City that was formed in 1965 and originally split up in 1967. While their songs drew from a wide array of musical styles, they are most remembered as one of the earliest practitioners of psychedelic rock, as well as one of the world’s first jam bands, along with the Grateful Dead.
In 1964, Elektra Records produced a compilation album of various artists entitled, The Blues Project, which featured several white musicians from the Greenwich Village area who played acoustic blues music in the style of black musicians. One of the featured artists on the album was a young guitarist named Danny Kalb, who was paid $75 for his two songs. Not long after the album’s release, however, Kalb gave up his acoustic guitar for an electric one. The Beatles’ arrival in the United States earlier in the year signified the end of the folk and acoustic blues movement that had swept the U.S. in the early 1960s. The ensuing British Invasion was the nail in the coffin.
Kalb’s first rock and roll band was formed in the spring of 1965, playing under various names at first, until finally settling on the Blues Project moniker as an allusion to Kalb’s first foray on record. After a brief hiatus in the summer of 1965 during which Kalb was visiting Europe, the band reformed in September 1965 and were almost immediately a top draw in Greenwich Village. By this time, the band included Danny Kalb on guitar, Steve Katz (having recently departed the Even Dozen Jug Band) also on guitar, Andy Kulberg on bass and flute, Roy Blumenfeld on drums and Tommy Flanders on vocals.
The band’s first big break came only a few weeks later when they auditioned for Columbia Records, and failed. The audition was a success, nevertheless, as it garnered them an organist in session musician Al Kooper. Kooper had begun his career as a session guitarist, but that summer, he began playing organ when he sneaked into the “Like a Rolling Stone” recording session for Bob Dylan’s album, Highway 61 Revisited. In order to improve his musicianship on the new instrument, Kooper joined the Blues Project and began gigging with them almost immediately. Soon thereafter, the Blues Project gained a recording contract from Verve Records, and began recording their first album live at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village over the course of a week in November 1965. While the band was known for their lengthy interpretations of blues and traditional rock and roll songs, their first album saw them rein in these tendencies because of record label wariness as well as time restrictions.
Entitled Live at The Cafe Au Go Go the album was finished with another week of recordings in January 1966. By that time, Flanders had left the band and, as a result, he appeared on only a few of the songs on this album.
The album was a moderate success and the band toured the U.S. to promote it. While in San Francisco, California in April 1966, the Blues Project played at the Fillmore Auditorium to rave reviews. Seemingly New York’s answer to the Grateful Dead, even members of the Grateful Dead who saw them play were impressed with their improvisational abilities.(Source: Rock Family Trees – television program)
Returning to New York, the band recorded their second album in the fall of 1966, and it was released in November. Projections contained an eclectic set of songs that ran the gamut from blues, R&B, jazz, psychedelia, and folk-rock. The centerpiece of the album was an 11-and-a-half minute version of “Two Trains Running,” which, along with other songs on the album, showed off their improvisational tendencies. One such song was the instrumental “Flute Thing”, written by Kooper and featuring Kulberg on flute.
Soon after the album was completed, though, the band began to fall apart. Kooper quit the band in the spring of 1967, and the band without him completed a third album, Live At Town Hall. Despite the name, only one song was recorded live at Town Hall, while the rest was made up of live recordings from other venues, or of studio outtakes with overdubbed applause to feign a live sound. One song in the latter category, Kooper’s “No Time Like the Right Time,” would be the band’s only charting single.
The Blues Project’s last hurrah was at the Monterey International Pop Festival held in Monterey, California, in June 1967. By this time, however, half the original line-up was gone. Kooper had formed his own band and played at the festival as well. Katz left soon thereafter, followed by Kalb. A fourth album, 1968’s Planned Obsolescence, featured only Blumenfeld and Kulberg from the original lineup, but was released under the Blues Project name at Verve’s insistence. Future recordings by this lineup would be released under a new band name, Seatrain.
In 1968, Kooper and Katz joined forces to fulfill a desire of Kooper’s to form a rock band with a horn section. The result was Blood, Sweat & Tears. While Kooper led the band on its first album, Child Is Father to the Man, he did not take part in any subsequent releases. Katz, on the other hand, remained with the band into the 1970s. Track 11-14: The Blues Project, Matrix, S.F. September 7-15, 1966
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY
It’s a Beautiful Day was a band formed in San Francisco, California in 1967, the brainchild of violinist and vocalist LaFlamme, a former soloist with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, had previously been in the band Orkustra, and unusually, played a five-string violin. The other members were his wife Linda (keyboards), Pattie Santos (vocals), Hal Wagenet (guitar), Mitchell Holman (bass) and Val Fuentes (drums). Although they were one of the earliest and most important San Francisco bands to emerge from the Summer of Love, It’s a Beautiful Day never quite achieved the success of their contemporaries such as The Grateful Dead and Santana, with whom they had connections. It’s A Beautiful Day created a unique blend of rock, jazz, folk, classical and world beat styles during the seven years the band was officially together.
The band’s debut album, It’s a Beautiful Day, released in 1969, featured the tracks “White Bird”, “Hot Summer Day”, “Time Is” and “Bombay Calling”. The intro of the last was used, at a slower tempo, by Deep Purple as the intro to “Child in Time” on its In Rock album. The vocals and violin playing of David LaFlamme plus Pattie Santos’ singing attracted attention including FM radio play, and nationally, “White Bird” bubbled under Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, peaking at #118.
By 1970 the original lineup of the band had changed somewhat; the LaFlammes had split up and Linda left the band, replaced by Fred Webb. The following album, Marrying Maiden, released in 1970, included memorable tracks and was also a chart hit. In that year, the group also performed at the Holland Pop Festival at the Kralingse Bos in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and at the UK Bath Festival.
It’s A Beautiful Day, track 15-18: Fillmore West-San Francisco, California, May 23-25 1968
QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE
Quicksilver Messenger Service (sometimes credited as simply Quicksilver) is an American psychedelic rock band formed in 1965 in San Francisco. They were most famous for their biggest hit, the single “Fresh Air” (from the album Just for Love), which reached #49 in 1970.
Quicksilver Messenger Service gained wide popularity in the San Francisco Bay Area and through their recordings, with psychedelic rock enthusiasts around the globe, and several of their albums ranked in the Top 30 of the Billboard Pop charts. Though not as commercially successful as contemporaries Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver was integral to the beginnings of their genre. With their jazz and classical influences and a strong folk background, the band attempted to create an individual, innovative sound. Member Dino Valenti drew heavily on musical influences he picked up during the folk revival of his formative musical years. The style he developed from these sources is evident in Quicksilver Messenger Service’s swung rhythms and twanging guitar sounds.
After many years, the band has attempted to reform despite the deaths of several members. Recently, original members Gary Duncan and David Freiberg have been touring as the Quicksilver Messenger Service, using various backing musicians.
Jim Murray left the group not long after they performed at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. The band began a period of heavy touring on the West Coast of the United States where they built up a solid following and featured on many star-studded bills at the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore West. Sound engineer (and infamous LSD chemist) Owsley Stanley regularly recorded concerts at major San Francisco venues during this period, and his archive includes many QMS live performances from 1966–67, which were released on his Bear Recordings label in 2008-2009.
QMS initially held back from signing a record deal at the time but eventually signed to Capitol Records in late 1967, becoming the last of the top-ranked San Francisco bands to sign with a major label. Capitol was the only company that had missed out on signing a San Francisco “hippie” band during the first flurry of record company interest and, consequently, Quicksilver Messenger Service was able to negotiate a better deal than many of their peers. At the same time, Capitol signed the Steve Miller Band, with whom Quicksilver Messenger Service had appeared on the movie and soundtrack album Revolution, together with the group Mother Earth.
Quicksilver Messenger Service released their eponymous debut album in 1968. It was followed by Happy Trails, released in early 1969 and largely recorded live at the Fillmore East and the Fillmore West. “Happy Trails” has a few additions to the original live performances: a studio comment at the beginning of side 2 and a completely different version of “Calvary,” which was recorded in the studio just before Gary Duncan left the band; otherwise it reflects Quicksilver’s live sound faithfully. Happy Trails was awarded a gold album in the United States.
These albums, which have been hailed as “…two of the best examples of the San Francisco sound at its purest,” define the classic period in the group’s career and showcase their distinctive sound, emphasizing extended arrangements and fluid twin-guitar improvisation. Cipollina’s highly melodic, individualistic lead guitar style, combined with Gary Duncan’s driving minor scale, jazzy sound guitar style, feature a clear, notable contrast to the heavily amplified and overdriven sound of contemporaries like Cream and Jimi Hendrix. In 2003 Happy Trails was rated at No. 189 in the Rolling Stone Top 500 albums survey, where it was described as “…the definitive live recording of the mid-Sixties San Francisco psychedelic-ballroom experience…” Archetypal QMS songs include the elongated, continually re-titled suite based on Bo Diddley’s Who Do You Love??, featured on Happy Trails.
Duncan left the group not long after the recording of Happy Trails; according to David Freiberg, this was largely because of his escalating problems with opiates and amphetamines. His ‘farewell’ performances were the studio recordings that ended up on Happy Trails and a final live performance with the band on New Year’s Eve 1969. Duncan recalled 18 years later:
“Well, let’s put it this way, at the end of 1968, I was pretty burned out. We’d been on the road for, really, the first time in our lives. I just left for a year. I didn’t want to have anything to do with music at all. And I left for a year and rode motorcycles and lived in New York and L.A. and just kind of went crazy for about a year.”
Freiberg later recalled that Duncan’s departure shook the core of the band: “Duncan was the ‘engine’ man, it just didn’t WORK without him … for me. I was really … I was devastated…
For their 1969 album Shady Grove, Duncan did not participate, replaced by renowned English session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, who had played on scores of hit albums and singles by acts like The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who and Steve Miller, among many others. Hopkins’ virtuoso piano boogie dominates the album, giving it a unique sound within the Quicksilver catalog.
The band that became Quicksilver Messenger Service originally was conceived as a rock vehicle for folk singer/songwriter Dino Valente (b. Nov. 7, 1943, d. Nov 16, 1994), author of “Get Together.” Living in San Francisco, Valente had found guitarist John Cipollina (b. Aug. 24, 1943, d. May 29, 1989) and singer Jim Murray. Valente’s friend David Freiberg (b. Aug. 24, 1938) joined on bass, and the group was completed by the addition of drummer Greg Elmore (b. Sep. 4, 1946) and guitarist Gary Duncan (b. Sep 4, 1946). As the band was being put together, Valente was imprisoned on a drug charge and he didn’t rejoin Quicksilver until later.
Happy Trails They debuted at the end of 1965 and played around the Bay Area and then the West Coast for the next two years, building up a large following but resisting offers to record that had been taken up by such San Francisco acid rock colleagues as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. Quicksilver finally signed to Capitol toward the end of 1967 and recorded their self-titled debut album in 1968 (by this time, Murray had left). Happy Trails, the 1969 follow-up, was recorded live. After its release, Duncan left the band and was replaced for Shady Grove (1970) by British session pianist Nicky Hopkins. By the time of its release, however, Duncan had returned, along with Valente, making the group a sextet.
Just for Love This version of Quicksilver, prominently featuring Valente’s songs and lead vocals, lasted only a year, during which two albums, Just for Love and What About Me, were recorded. Cipollina, Freiberg, and Hopkins then left, and the remaining trio of Valente, Duncan, and Elmore hired replacements and cut another couple of albums before disbanding. There was a reunion in 1975, resulting in a new album and a tour, and in 1986 Duncan revived the Quicksilver name for an album that also featured Freiberg on background vocals.BILL GRAHAM ARCHIVES 1966-67 FILLMORE AUDITORIUM SAN FRANCISCO,CA.,USA
01. A.B. Skhy – The World Needs Love 11:04
02. A.B. Skhy – Thinking It Over 08:25
03. A.B. Skhy – Sweet Little Angel 08:42
04. A.B. Skhy – Just What I Needed 04:16
05. A.B. Skhy – St. James Infirmary 08:46
06. A.B. Skhy – Everyday I have The Blues 08:48
07. Aum – I Need You 05:30
08. Aum – Little Brown Hen 03:33
09. Aum – A Little Help From You 13:39
10. Aum – Bye-Bye Baby 10:40
11. Blues Project – I Can’t Keep From Crying 06:04
12. Blues Project – Caress My Baby 08:08
13. Blues Project – Wake Me Shake Me 08:04
14. Blues Project – You Can’t Catch Me 05:22
15. It’s A Beautiful Day – Wasted Union Blues 12:19
16. It’s A Beautiful Day – White Bird 06:48
17. It’s A Beautiful Day – Hot Summer Wind 11:02
18. It’s A Beautiful Day – Jam, Bombay Calling 10:08
19. Quicksilver Messenger Service – Hoochie Coochie Man 06:26 (February 4,1967)
20. Quicksilver Messenger Service – Hair Like Sunshine 05:37 (November 5,1966)
21. Quicksilver Messenger Service – Duncan & Brady 03:40 (February 4,1967)
22. Quicksilver Messenger Service – Walkin’ Blues 03:37 (February 4,1967)