The sixties and seventies epitomized a City/River Rock ‘n’ Roll hookup. Several bands lived within a six-block radius of each other in the Haight Ashbury District of San Francisco during the Summer of Love (1967). In fact, there were over 500 musical groups in the City at the time, many of them playing at the Avalon Ballroom, the Fillmore Auditorium, Winterland, and the Straight Theater. That same year, the Monterey Pop Festival helped to catapulted at least four northern California ensembles to stardom. The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin), Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service all vaulted to the top of the psychedelic acid heap, soon venturing north to the Russian River to showcase their infusion of Indian, jazz, folk and blues.
The Rio Nido Dance Hall and the River Theater in Guerneville were but a few of the venues where these musicians strutted their stuff in Sonoma County.
Rock ‘n’ Roll at the River:
The Grateful Dead’s “Alligator” was supposedly written out on Warnecke Ranch on Chalk Hill Rd in Healdsburg where the boys spent a lot of time. “Dark Star” was born while getting ready to perform at The Barn (Rio Nido Dance Hall) in September of 1967. Their long jams (some lasting 15 minutes) were well suited to “wasted” dancers who had lost track of time. At Guerneville’s River Theater (which was founded in 1947 and showed double feature films), three guitarists of Moby Grape did battle for over two minutes, charging along in “Omaha” from their debut album of 1967 (Moby Grape). Quicksilver Messenger Service showcased many of their songs from Happy Trails (1969) at both The Barn and at the River Theater. Jerry Garcia called it “…the most psychedelic rock album ever recorded”. Other rockers (to name just a few) who have traveled through the San Francisco scene to the River are the Steve Miller Band, Country Joe and the Fish, Elvin Bishop Group, Jefferson Airplane, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Morning Glory, Overbrook Express, Buffalo Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, and Electric Flag with Occidental’s Nick Gravenites. I say, bring ’em ALL back!