images of Broadway, San Francisco

Besides the strip clubs, there was family entertainment along Broadway as well during the 1960’s. Basin Street West featured breakfast shows, which started around 2:30 a.m. On one particular morning Tina Turner was the featured star. Janis Joplin, who had drifted in after her performance at Winterland, was in the audience. When introduced, she jumped on stage as Tina gave her the old “stink eye”. A vocal duel ensued for the next two hours where Tina would belt out “Proud Mary” before handing the mic to Janis with a dare. Janis took on the challenge with “Piece of My Heart” and so it went on until the house lights came on, forcing them to stop at 4:30 a.m. to the chagrin of all present. In his next column, Herb Caen lamented he had missed such an iconic moment.


In an annual act of charity, comedian Redd Foxx and other performers along Broadway made a field trip to San Quentin to entertain the boys for the Christmas holiday.   Coincidentally, there had been an escape attempt from the prison the week before that failed because the rope the escapees used broke. At the end of his act, Foxx invited the inmates to visit him at Basin Street West “if you can get a new rope.” Everyone including the guards cracked up.

Another venue, The Red Garter, was singularly responsible for reviving the banjo craze. Harry Higgins and his band played for eighteen years until the club closed in 1976. For five nights a week, nearly 500 people packed the house. It was a beer joint with a New Orleans vibe. Sing-along songs such as “When the Saints Come Marching In” or “California Here I Come” were among tourists’ favorites. Higgins logged more than 25,000 hours, setting a national record for the longest running banjo player.