Fillmore Poster Framed Bg 62 Signed By Wes Wilson 1967 Grateful Dead
General Fillmore Information
These posters were very cheaply made; especially the earlier ones. Bill Graham never envisioned that they would someday become collector items. They were intended to be posted on walls, telephone poles, etc. to advertise that week’s performing artists only to be torn down, discarded and replaced next week with a new poster for the next show. As such, maintaining them in ‘pristine’ condition is an on-going challenge.
I have gone through great lengths to insure that these posters have been maintained using only archival materials. I have preserved them on acid free paper mounted by protective corners stored flat in binders. On most of the photos of posters that I will be offering you may notice these corner protectors.
Shipping Info :
To best insure their proper packing and safe shipping I will therefore recommend using UPS to both package and mail this poster. Should you have a different preference, please contact me to discuss.
Shipping and handling policy:
Shipping, Insurance and Handling fee via UPS Ground with signature confirmation for framed posters, the cost is $200 and any additional unframed posters will be free of charge.
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I will be offering more Fillmore Posters in the weeks and months to follow.
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About the Poster
Offered here is a framed BG 62 first printing signed by famed Fillmore artist Wes Wilson in mint/near mint condition, nice sharp corners and no handling marks. I hesitate to identify any poster as “mint” as someone will surely take a magnifying glass and find a spec; although this one looks as pristine as possible. I can assure you though that it as good as they were on the day of production. Pictures are the best description on the condition of this poster.
This is the famous poster that was produced following a disagreement between Bill Graham and Wes Wilson that depicted Bill Graham as a ‘money hungry snake’ with a swastika over his head.
Date of Performance: May 5 and 6, 1967
Artist: Wes Wilson
The Grateful Dead Biography
Hall of Fame Inductees:
Jerry Garcia (guitar, vocals; born August 1, 1942, died August 9, 1995)
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (keyboards, harmonica, vocals; born September 8, 1945, died March 8, 1973)
Phil Lesh (bass, vocals; born March 15, 1940)
Bob Weir (guitar, vocals; born October 16, 1947)
Mickey Hart (drums, percussion; born September 11, 1943)
Bill Kreutzmann (drums; born April 7, 1946)
Robert Hunter (lyricist; born June 23, 1941)
Tom Constanten (keyboards; born March 19, 1944)
Donna Godchaux (vocals; born August 22, 1945)
Keith Godchaux (keyboards; born July 14, 1948, died July 21, 1980)
Brent Mydland (keyboards, vocals; born October 21, 1952, died July 26, 1990)
Vince Welnick (keyboards; born February 22, 1951, died June 2, 2006).
What a long, strange trip it’s been” is a lyric from one of the Grateful Dead’s best known songs and pretty much tells a bunch about the long history of this band. They first started to be noticed at Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests where they were the house band. The Acid Test were a series of now-legendary public LSD parties (documented in Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), where Stanley Owsley manufactured the then legal LSD and plied the band and party goers with copious amounts of the drug.
By the end of ’65 the band changed their name to the Grateful Dead and they were all living in a communal house situated at 710 Ashbury Street in San Francisco.They started to build a large following with their free concerts and were considered amongst the leaders of the then growing hippie movement in San Francisco. In 1966 they signed with MGM Records but the resulting recording sessions didn’t go well and the label dropped the group a short time later. With 1967 came the Summer Of Love and the Dead were the top draw at the Fillmore Auditorium and other local venues.
Europe ’72 would be the last album to feature Pigpen. His health had been deteriorating steady for the last couple of years from heavy drinking and sadly he passed away in 1973 of liver failure. He was replaced on keyboards by Keith Godcheaux and at the same time his wife Donna joined the band on vocals. Also in ’73 was the release of their album Wake Of The Flood which was a commercial success. The Dead would end up releasing ten albums in the 70s ending with 1978′s Shakedown Street which was produced by Lowell George. At the end of 1979 the Godcheauxs were ask to leave the band as they just didn’t seem to fit in to the band’s plans. The following year Keith would be killed in a car crash. In 1980 their new album Go To Heaven was released with new keyboard player Brent Mydland.
In 1992 Garcia was again hospitalized with diabetes and an enlarged heart, forcing the Dead to postpone their upcoming tour. The band did come back after that to tour and Garcia looked better. But on August 9, 1995 the Dead came to an end when Garcia was found dead in bed in a drug treatment center he had just entered. His death was as much an important ending in music as was the breakup of the Beatles in 1970. With Garcia’s and the Dead’s passing, things in hippieland will never quite be the same again.
The Grateful Dead were the most important band of the psychedelic era and among the most groundbreaking acts in rock and roll history. They broke all the rules while slowly and steadily building a career that carried them from the ballrooms of San Francisco in the Sixties to arenas and stadiums all over the country in the decades that followed. A leaderless democracy, they were fronted by guitarist Jerry Garcia, whose improvisational tangents made him a pied piper to the largest and most devoted cult following in popular music: a massive network of fans known as “Deadheads.” The Dead and their followers did much to keep the spirit of the Sixties alive in modern times.
The Grateful Dead and their peers on the San Francisco scene – notably Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Country Joe and the Fish – raised the consciousness of the rock audience, leading them to an enhanced vision of music in which albums were more important than singles and concerts became marathon exercises in risk-taking.
Heavily steeped in Americana, the group had its roots in blues and bluegrass. From the jazz world, the Grateful Dead leaned to approach music from an improvisational perspective. From the culture of psychedelia – specifically Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests, of which they were a part – the Dead became aware of the infinite possibilities for expression when imagination was given free reign. Led by Garcia’s guitar, the Dead would delve into blues, folk, jazz R&B and avant-garde realms for hours on end. The group’s signature composition was “Dark Star,” which served as a foundation for their most extended and experimental jamming. They performed this epic more than 200 times and never the same way twice, with Garcia’s modal guitar spearheading their explorations into uncharted territory.
“They’ll follow me down any dark alley,” Garcia noted in 1987. “Sometimes there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and sometimes there’s a dark hole. The point is, you don’t get adventure in music unless you’re willing to take chances.”
The Dead’s career can be viewed in several stages. During the latter half of the Sixties, they were a psychedelic rock band whose music and lifestyle were synonymous with the San Francisco scene. In the Seventies, they moved toward a rootsier sound and style of songwriting while maintaining the lengthy jamming tangents that remained high points of their concerts. In the Eighties, they became a touring juggernaut, attracting a nomadic following of Deadheads that followed them from show to show. An anomalous commercial peak came in 1987 when “Touch of Grey” became a Top 10 hit, further accelerating the influx of younger fans to the band’s increasingly prosperous touring scene.
They would appear on Forbes’ list of top-grossing entertainers and for a few years in the early Nineties were the highest-grossing concert attraction in the U.S. The 1995 death of Jerry Garcia abruptly put an end to the Grateful Dead, though various members subsequently regrouped as the Other Ones, The Dead and Furthur.
The roots of the Grateful Dead hark back to the early Sixties and a small community of literature and music-minded proto-hippies in Palo Alto, California, to which Garcia gravitated. It was in this milieu that he befriended Robert Hunter, who would become his lifelong songwriting partner, and Ron McKernan (a.k.a. “Pigpen”), a serious disciple of blues and soul who played keyboards and harmonica. A budding young guitarist named Bob Weir fell in with Garcia’s crew, which gathered at Dana Morgan’s Music Store in Palo Alto (where Garcia gave guitar lessons).
In 1964 Garcia, Weir and McKernan formed Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, a string band that played blues, folk and good-time music. Much of the Grateful Dead’s early repertoire of borrowed tunes, including “Good Morning Little School Girl” and “Viola Lee Blues,” was learned during this time. It was Pigpen’s suggestion – inspired by a newly popular band from England, the Rolling Stones – that they plug in and amplify their sound. They recruited a rhythm section of drummer Bill Kreutzmann (who Garcia knew from the music store, where both taught) and Phil Lesh, a musical prodigy who’d studied jazz, classical and the avant-garde. Though he’d never played bass before, Lesh jumped at the chance to join the band and mastered the instrument quickly. “I knew something great was happening, something bigger than everybody,” he recalled.
By May 1965, the classic five-man lineup of Garcia, Weir, Lesh, McKernan and Kreutzmann was in place. Renaming themselves the Warlocks, they took a decidedly more electric approach. Half a year later, after realizing there was another group called the Warlocks, they became the Grateful Dead. The name suggested itself when Garcia opened up a dictionary and his eyes fell upon those words. “It was a truly weird moment,” he later noted. Implicit in that name was the promise of adventure and risk – qualities that would become hallmarks of the Grateful Dead’s approach to music.
The Dead provided a kind of cultural glue, serving to link the literary and philosophical leanings of Fifties beatniks with the musical awakening of the Sixties counterculture. Both movements flourished in the enlightened environs of the Bay Area. The Grateful Dead were retained to provide musical settings for novelist Ken Kesey’s legendary Acid Tests. From there, they began honing their concert alchemy at San Francisco’s venues, notably the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom. They were signed to Warner Bros. Records by Joe Smith, the company’s president, after he caught a show at the Avalon in August 1966.
During their lifespan, the Grateful Dead ranged between five and seven members. In 1967, they expanded to a sextet with the addition of a second drummer, Mickey Hart. In 1968, they added keyboardist Tom Constanten, expanding to a septet. In terms of personnel, the keyboard role was always the band’s most unstable. Somewhat eerily, four of the Grateful Dead’s keyboardists – Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Keith Godchaux, Brent Mydland and Vince Welnick – died prematurely.
The Grateful Dead fused rock and roll energy with the psychedelic experience to fashion an endlessly fascinating labyrinth of sound. Their self-titled first album, recorded in three days, sprinted through their blues and bluegrass repertoire with speed and energy. Anthem of the Sun (1968) was their transcendently psychedelic, quasi-symphonic magnum opus. Aoxomomoxoa was another highly experimental piece of work. As good as these early albums were, they could not match the Grateful Dead when they were at their best in concert, and the group would frequently turn to live albums as the truest representation of their experience. (A popular bumpersticker read: “There Is Nothing Like a Grateful Dead Concert.”)
Live/Dead, compiled from shows performed in San Francisco between January 26 and March 2, 1969, remains a career highlight. It documented the fairly regimented yet highly improvisational program they performed at that time. The lineup included “Dark Star” (the ultimate Grateful Dead performance piece), “St. Stephen” and “The Eleven” (performed in 11/4 time). After exploring the outer reaches of psychedelic consciousness, the Dead would return to earth with an energetic rendition of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Turn On Your Lovelight” (a showcase for Pigpen’s soulful vocals), followed by the bluesy, mournful “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” (from the repertoire of Rev. Gary Davis) and a gospel-style finale (“And We Bid You Goodnight”). The programming mirrored the stages of an acid trip – ascendancy, peaking and return to reality – and it’s been noted that this logic became embedded in the two-set structure of the Grateful Dead’s concerts for the duration of their career. As drummer Mickey Hart famously noted, “We’re in the transportation business – we move minds.”
In the wake of the Sixties and the slow demise of the San Francisco scene, the Grateful Dead took a turn toward a more acoustic, back-to-basics style on Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty (both from 1970). Both were more thoughtful, folk-oriented albums that revealed the band members’ improved songwriting ability and sage-like overview of America’s past, present and future. Much of the material was written by Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter, and they included some of their best-loved songs: “Truckin’,” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Casey Jones” and “Sugar Magnolia.” These albums were influenced by the often acoustic, harmony-laden music of Crosby, Stills and Nash (who taught the Dead how to harmonize) and the Band (whose highly influential first two albums had a rustic, rootsy tone).
The Dead followed those studio albums with the consecutive live releases Grateful Dead (a.k.a. “Skull and Roses”) and Europe ’72. At this point they felt so strongly that their work was best captured in concert that a number of new songs were unveiled on live rather than studio recordings. These included such staples as Grateful Dead’s “Wharf Rat” and “Bertha” and Europe ’72’s “Jack Straw,” “He’s Gone” and “Tennessee Jed.” Both albums also contained a raft of covers that revealed the Dead’s growing allegiance to roots music. There were songs by country singers Marty Robbins (“El Paso”), Merle Haggard (“Mama Tried”) and Hank Williams (“You Win Again”), as well as the Wild West tall tale “Me and My Uncle,” penned by John Phillips (of the Mamas and the Papas).
Various group members also launched solo albums during this time frame. Jerry Garcia was first with his self-titled solo album Garcia, which appeared in January 1972. Bob Weir’s Ace, released in June 1972, was a Grateful Dead album in all but name, as Weir’s bandmates contributed liberally to what was the most Dead-like of all their solo projects.
In 1973, the group released Wake of the Flood, their first studio album in three years and first release following the expiration of their contract with Warner Bros. It was issued on the group’s own Grateful Dead Records. They also created an affiliated label, Round Records, for solo projects. Both were distributed by United Artists. In March 1974, the group debuted a massive, state-of-the-art sound system, dubbed the Wall of Sound. It was both a sonic breakthrough and practical albatross whose setup time and cost of transport made it almost prohibitively expensive. The group released From the Mars Hotel in June, but that October – exhausted from constant touring and rethinking the costly boondoggle of their sound system – they went on an extended hiatus, exiting with five nights of “farewell” shows at San Francisco’s Winterland. Among other things, Jerry Garcia spent the next two years editing The Grateful Dead Movie, a 90-minute concert documentary assembled from the Winterland stand.
The group performed only four times in 1975, though they did release one of their more inspired studio albums, Blues for Allah, that year. The Grateful Dead returned to the touring life in June 1976. Deadheads consider 1977 to be the band’s standout year as a live band. Having folded their own labels, the Dead signed to Clive Davis’ Arista Records toward the end of 1976. Over the next several years, they issued the studio albums Terrapin Station (1977), Shakedown Street (1978) and Go to Heaven (1980). Terrapin Station contained the seven-part sidelong epic “Terrapin Station.” Shakedown Street was notable for its choice of producer: Lowell George, guitarist and frontman for Little Feat. Following Go to Heaven, there would not be another album of new music from the Grateful Dead for seven years.
Over the latter half of their career, Garcia was periodically beset with substance-abuse problems, a state of affairs that came to a head with his arrest on drug possession charges in 1985, and his collapse into a diabetic coma in 1986. His recovery included having to relearn how to play the guitar. His health improved in the wake of those crises, and a revitalized Grateful Dead entered a period of heightened activity that included the 1987 album In the Dark and the Top 10 single (“Touch of Grey”). The group issued its final studio album, Built to Last, in 1989.
Drugs continued to haunt the Grateful Dead, who lost keyboardist Brent Mydland to a fatal overdose in 1990. Mydland was succeeded, temporarily, by Bruce Hornsby and replaced by Vince Welnick. Garcia died on August 9, 1995, at a drug-treatment facility in Forest Knolls, California. The Grateful Dead’s final concert had taken place a month earlier, at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 9, 1995.
The Dead could not survive the loss of Garcia, but the music lives on. Three dozen vintage concerts were released as part of the “Dick’s Picks” series, named for Dick Latvala, the group’s longtime tape archivist. (Latvala, who died in 1999, was succeeded in that role by David Lemieux.) Various other concerts have seen commercial release, including performances at Fillmore East, Fillmore West, across Europe and at the base of the Egyptian pyramids. Between 1991 and 2007, 53 live Grateful Dead concerts were released. Inspired by the Dead’s example, other artists – from Neil Young and Bob Dylan to Pearl Jam and Phish – have followed suit to varying degrees, opening their own concert vaults with fan-oriented releases.
Individually, the surviving members have continued to make music. Mickey Hart has pursued a highly successful career as a rhythmatist and ethnomusicologist, recording and compiling numerous volumes of world music. Bob Weir formed Ratdog. Phil Lesh toured with a revolving cast of musicians known as Phil and Friends. Bill Kreutzmann’s other projects have included BK3 and 7 Walkers.
Beginning in 1996, several “Furthur Festivals” – involving Dead-related ensembles and kindred spirits – kept the spirit alive. Weir, Lesh, Hart and Bruce Hornsby toured as the Other Ones in 1998. They were joined by Bill Kreutzmann for tours in 2000 and 2002. Calling themselves The Dead, the four surviving members – Weir, Lesh, Hart and Bill Kreutzmann – again regrouped with supporting musicians in 2003, 2004 and 2009. Lesh and Weir have soldiered on with the group Furthur.
Ultimately, the Grateful Dead’s triumph was to create an alternative form of music and alternatives to music-business conventions that succeeded on their own uncompromising terms. Much about the Grateful Dead was improvised or left to chance. Theirs was a laissez-faire anarchy that assumed things would work out as the cosmos intended. This faith in a universal order, gleaned from the start at Kesey’s Acid Tests, freed them to pursue music without the usual constraints. The Grateful Dead illuminated the world with their music, transforming culture and consciousness as well. In so doing, they became an improbably durable and influential institution. As Phil Lesh said at the Grateful Dead’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994: “Sometimes you don’t merely have to endure. You can prevail.”
The Paupers Bio
The Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967 should have been The Paupers’ launch pad to international fame. Only four months earlier, the Canadian folk-rock band had seemed destined for the top when Bob Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman bought their contract and began hyping them as the next biggest thing since The Beatles. A month prior to the festival, the group had showcased its talent at a string of well received shows at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, and had spent two solid weeks working up a suitable set list for the forthcoming festival. As Canadian rock journalist, Nicholas Jennings notes in his excellent book, Before The Goldrush, the opportunity to “blow away the competition looked good when the band was scheduled to follow mellow popsters The Association.”
But from the minute The Paupers launched into their set, everything that could go wrong did, and in the subsequent media frenzy, the group’s performance was all but ignored. Within six months, the group once hyped to surpass The Beatles, had lost not only its most inspirational member but was facing mounting debts.
The disappointment of Monterey must have seemed a million miles away from New York’s Café Au Go Go, where, on a freezing cold evening in March 1967, The Paupers proceeded to demolish the headlining act, Jefferson Airplane, then making its East Coast debut. Performing in front of a media and record industry-packed audience that included The Beatles’ Brian Epstein and Albert Grossman, The Paupers couldn’t have picked a better time to make an impression.
While the band became the first Canadian rock band to snare a high profile American manager and a lucrative American recording contract, The Paupers never received the adulation and fame that they deserved. Along the way however, the group produced some of the finest music to emerge from Canada during the ‘60s, and live were arguably one of the most colorful, dynamic and electrifying groups on the North American stage.
The driving force throughout much of The Paupers’ career was drummer Ronn (Skip) Prokop (b. 13 December 1943, Hamilton, Ontario). An accomplished musician, Prokop had been playing music in his hometown since the age of eight when he picked up the accordion. Deserting music for two years, he took up drums at 13 after joining the Preston Scout House Drum Corps. Such was Prokop’s prowess that, according to an article in the music magazine The Canadian, he ended up becoming an instructor and worked throughout Ontario. Prokop also won the national individual rudimental championships two years in a row and composed a percussion quartet that grabbed another national award.
Boredom crept in and Prokop subsequently took up guitar. In early 1964, he formed a folk trio, The Riverside Three, but this was ditched after six months in favor of playing in a local dance band. He then formed another folk trio, but soon found himself out of work when the local hotel he was playing at discovered he was underage and passed the word around. When The Beatles and Rolling Stones-led British Invasion landed on North American shores, Prokop realized that rock was where “it” was at and moved up to Toronto to start his own band.
In an interview for Canada Music Quarterly, Prokop told journalist Joey Cee that the decision to form The Paupers was driven by his desire to put together a band that used electric 12-string guitars. The Riverside Three had toyed with the idea, but somehow had never got round to realizing Prokop’s dream. Perhaps for this reason, the first person that Prokop approached to join his new project was his former cohort, singer/guitarist Bill Marion (real name: Bill Misener).
Prokop and Marion immediately got to work looking for suitable players to join their fledging group. Next to join was guitarist Chuck Beal (b. 6 April 1944, Scarborough, Ontario), who was recruited via the Toronto Musicians’ Association’s notice board. Working at Larry Sykes music in Scarborough during the day and playing the bars along Toronto’s Yonge Street strip at night, Beal was intrigued by Prokop’s concept and duly accepted the offer. Equally important, he introduced his friend, Denny Gerrard (b. 28 February 1947, Scarborough, Ontario), a self-taught guitarist, who had apparently purchased his first bass from Beal.
With Beal and Gerrard on board, and initially dubbed The Spats, the group spent two weeks rehearsing material in Beal’s basement, before venturing into Hallmark Recording Studios to lay down three Prokop originals – “Never Send You Flowers”, “Sooner Than Soon” and “Free As A Bird”. “Never Send You Flowers” duly attracted the attention of CHUM disc jockey Duff Roman, who, impressed by the song, offered to manage the band. With Roman calling the shots, “Never Send You Flowers” was released as the group’s debut single in early 1965. The single found its way to Glen Walters aka Big G Walters, a disc jockey at CKEY, and following popular demand, became the station’s top hit.
According to Beal, the sudden interest took the group by surprise. In The Canadian, he remarked: “We had all sorts of bookings coming in…and we only knew three songs. We rehearsed for another four months so we could play a show.” The band’s persistence paid off and on 25 April 1965, The Paupers (as they were now called) made only their third public performance supporting The Rolling Stones at Maple Leaf Gardens.
The decision to change the name had been thrust on the band at an early stage when another outfit in the US was found operating as The Spats. Apparently, the new name emerged on the way down to a local restaurant. “We had 50 cents among us,” Prokop told The Canadian. “Bill said, ‘Why don’t we call ourselves The Paupers’?” The name seemed rather fitting. Despite the Maple Leaf Gardens show, and regular appearances at the under 21 club in the Canadian National Exhibition during the summer, the group was virtually broke. Nevertheless, The Paupers persevered and in the autumn followed up “Never Send You Flowers” with a new single, the blues-inflected “If I Told My Baby”, which like its predecessor was issued on the local Red Leaf label.
“As I recall, Red Leaf Records was formed by Duff Roman, Stan Klease (Big Town Boys’ producer), Walt Greelis (founder of RPMmagazine and what became the Juno awards) and probably some other chaps that I never met,” says Beal. “The idea was to have a nationally distributed Canadian record label that was promoted through a network of key radio stations. Canada does not have national radio stations other than the CBC and at that time, music videos were just somebody’s dream. This means that unless a bunch of radio stations across the country jump on the same record at the same time, national exposure for Canadian artists by radio was then and still is impossible. Red Leaf was a good idea but with limited financing, could not live up to the hopes of those involved.
”Not surprisingly then, “If I Told My Baby”, despite its undoubted chart potential, and a great lead vocal by Bill Marion, fell on deaf ears. The Paupers responded with the sultry “For What I Am”, which was issued on Duff Roman’s own label, Roman Records in December 1965. The song’s moody undercurrent hinted at a growing maturity in the fledging Prokop/Marion song-writing partnership, but like its predecessor it failed to chart. Perhaps for this reason, the group opted to issue a cover, “Long Tall Sally” as a follow up, but once again the Canadian record buying public stayed away.
Nevertheless, The Paupers had begun to pick up more steady work, most notably at the El Patio in Toronto’s hip Yorkville district. It was here that the group’s luck changed courtesy of Bernie Finklestein (later singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn’s longstanding manager).
Finkelstein was an interesting character who first dabbled with managing a band while at school. Over the next few years he drifted from job to job – there are rumors that he slept in hot dog stands and Laundromats, and at one point got by working as a caretaker in a local theatre.
Somehow he ended up at the El Patio, making expresso coffees during the evenings, and cleaning the premises during the day. It was during an afternoon shift that he first caught The Paupers, who at the time were rehearsing for their debut weeklong engagement. Finkelstein was suitably impressed. Not one for mincing his words, he boldly told the group that the best acts around were those writing original material and immediately offered his services as a manager.
Up to this point, the group had been handling most of its affairs; apart from producing the band, Roman had little input other than acting as its publisher. However, as Prokop recalled to Ritchie Yorke in his book Axes, Chops & Hot Licks, “there had been a lot of hassles and uptightness”, and when Finkelstein arrived “with a lot of flashy ideas”, the group decided to dispense with Roman’s services.
Finkelstein’s fast-talking finesse soon got results when Arc Records offered to record the band that summer. The label, it seems, may even have got as far as putting a recording on tape. According to the Toronto Telegram’s After Four section on Thursday, 14 July, The Paupers were due to perform at the North Toronto Memorial Arena the following Tuesday where fans would get the opportunity to hear the group’s latest recording – “Heart Walking Blues”.
Whether any such recording actually made it on to the market is not entirely clear. No-one in the band seems to recall anything about this particular recording and bearing in mind that The Paupers’ were about to undergo a major upheaval in their line up, it is likely that the recording was quickly ditched with very few, if any, copies being pressed.
Five days after the North Toronto Memorial Arena show, The Paupers played a one-off date at the El Patio shortly after which Marion, who had become increasingly unhappy about his role, handed in his notice. The group’s lead singer cited “hassles regarding his song-writing” as his reason for leaving. Prokop adds that Marion also had a real desire to sing R&B, and was unable to find an outlet for this in The Paupers.
Marion subsequently embarked on a brief solo career, recording a lone single, “Flower Girl” for the Nimbus label in 1967. He then hooked up with The Last Words for a few months before forming the music production company, Cranberry Roadhouse Productions. In 1969, he reverted to his former name, Bill Misener and became a staff producer and manager for RCA’s Sun Bar Productions, later writing for and producing the Quebec group, The Morse Code Transmission. Resuming a solo career in the early ‘70s, he recorded a string of albums for the Grit, CTL and Polydor labels, and enjoyed a sizeable national hit in January 1972 with the single “Little O’l Rock ‘N’ Roll Band”. He subsequently became a successful jingle writer and sang on TV commercials.
Marion’s departure scuttled the Arc deal, but Finkelstein simply walked across the road to the Mousehole folk club and asked singer/songwriter and guitarist Adam Mitchell (b. 24 November 1944, Glasgow, Scotland) to join. The young Scotsman, who’d moved to Toronto at the age of 12, would prove to be the catalyst in raising The Paupers’ profile. Not only did he forge a prolific song-writing partnership with Prokop, but he was also blessed with a distinctive voice.
Growing up in Bolton, Ontario, Mitchell initially played drums but at the age of 17 switched to guitar with the advent of the folk boom. He briefly played in two folk groups, including the CommonFolk, before working solo in local venues like the Riverboat and the Mousehole. Mitchell had caught the band earlier in the year and was impressed. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought they were really out of sight,” he told The Canadian. “I talked to Skip and we became close friends”. The afternoon Marion walked out, Mitchell was with the band the same day, rehearsing. (In an interesting side note, Mitchell was attending the University of Toronto during this period and majoring in French, but subsequently left before completing his arts degree.)
With Mitchell on board, The Paupers embarked on mammoth rehearsals at the Hawk’s Nest, practicing for no less than 13 hours a day! Following Ronnie Hawkins’ example with The Hawks (later The Band), Prokop adopted a taskmaster role and “cracked the whip” during rehearsals while Finkelstein charged band members for infractions. The strict regime had an immediate effect as The Paupers quickly developed a tight stage act. “When we came out,” says Prokop, “the group was completely changed. We had a lot of funky, good-time material.”
Debuting at the Broom and Stone in Scarborough (most likely on 14 August), The Paupers were an instant success, and the following month landed an important slot at the highly publicized 14-hour pop show, sponsored by CHUM radio, and held at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens alongside 14 top local bands.
Over the next few months, the group became one of the biggest draws in Yorkville village, performing at notable venues like the Night Owl, the Hawk’s Nest and Boris’ Red Gas Room. By this stage, the band had developed a captivating stage show, which according to Nicholas Jennings, was “built around earth-shaking drums, a wailing guitar and Denny Gerrard’s mind-boggling bass.”
Gerrard was indeed fast becoming a local legend. Donning his trade-mark Sluggo cap, the inspirational musician would later be voted best bass player two years in a row by US critic Ralph Gleason in Playboy magazine’s annual jazz poll. Beal’s guitar playing was also enthralling, as Nicholas Jennings notes, “it was like an early version of U2’s Edge, full of repeating, tape-looped notes and weird effects.” Overnight, The Paupers had become big fish in a small pond. The more lucrative American market beckoned.
Fortunately, the band didn’t have long to wait for such an opportunity. Opening for The Lovin’ Spoonful at Maple Leaf Gardens on 11 December, Finkelstein ran in to Harvey Glatt, promoter and owner of Ottawa’s Le Hibou coffeehouse, who suggested that he should approach MGM Records in New York.
Armed with a four-song demo, Finkelstein flew to the Big Apple early in the new year and to his surprise, MGM agreed to sign the band to its subsidiary, Verve Forecast; a first for a Canadian band. Buoyed by the response, Finkelstein headed over to Greenwich Village and looked up Howard Soloman, the owner of the Café Au Go Go, who offered the band a gig opening for Jefferson Airplane in early March. Finkelstein accepted the booking and headed back to Toronto where The Paupers were riding high with “If I Call You By Some Name”, the group’s debut single with Mitchell. Having peaked at #6 on the CHUM chart on 16 January, the single eventually sold around 35,000 copies.
The stage was set for the group’s debut US appearance at the Café Au Go Go. As those witnessing concur, from the opening bars of “Think I Care”, The Paupers were in their element. By the time they were done, the place was theirs, and critics were not slow in showering the band with praise. Writing in the Village Voice, Richard Goldstein exclaimed: “They have a power and a discipline I’ve never seen before in a performance.”
Following the show, Albert Grossman came back stage to visit the band. As Prokop told The Canadian, “We saw this cat with long, white hair down to his shoulders and Ben Franklin glasses and we didn’t know who he was. About four days later, he approached Bernie and we had a meeting and signed contracts.”
Finkelstein, who had been made a lucrative offer to co-manage the band, subsequently sold his rights to the group for $20,000 and used the money to set up his next project, the experimental folk-rock outfit, Kensington Market. One of Grossman’s first moves as manager meanwhile was to renegotiate the group’s contract with Verve Forecast, which allegedly had been signed for no front money!
Following the success of the New York show, The Paupers released a new single, the bluesy “Simple Deed”, and while it didn’t quite sell as much as its predecessor still managed to climb to a respectable #23 on the CHUM chart on 27 March.
The group then returned to New York to cut its debut album with producer Rick Shorter. During this time, band members also found time to moonlight on other projects, most notably on Peter, Paul and Mary single “I Dig Rock And Roll”.
With the album in the can, The Paupers flew to San Francisco in early May to play three sets of shows at the Fillmore Auditorium. Opening twice for local acidheads, The Grateful Dead and concluding with a support slot for soul sisters, Martha & The Vandellas, The Paupers’ breezy folk-rock and sunny melodies went over well with the San Francisco audiences.
That same month, Verve Forecast issued a new single, “One Rainy Day”, which apparently sold so poorly that the group pulled it out of the marketplace themselves. Despite the chart failure, the positive reception to the band’s live shows on the West Coast bode well for the up and coming Monterey festival and anticipation was running high.
“While in California we learned ahead of time that we were to play a fairly short set at the festival,” remembers Beal. “So, we decided to put together a non-stop medley of several cuts from our first album, ending with Denny’s bass solo. We got it together and at the sound check everything went well. Actually, several of the promoters and musicians took the time to complement us on our arrangement and performance.”
Introduced by Byrds guitarist David Crosby, who hyped the band to the 30,000-strong crowd, The Paupers duly took to the stage on the evening of 16 June, and immediately ran into problems. According to some sources, Gerrard had dropped some acid before the show, which may account for why his bass playing seemed out of sync with the rest of the group. Technical problems also afflicted the group as Beal’s amp crackled on and off. Ralph Gleason, who had championed Gerrard in Playboy earlier in the year, later said that the band was one of the festival’s real disappointments.
Beal has his own take on events. “The tightness of the band was not only one of our strong points, but turned out to be our undoing at Monterey,” he explains. “That night when things went wrong, rather than stop playing, regroup and chat with the audience till things got fixed, we just damned the torpedoes and kept going full speed ahead. As a result, we wound up sinking our own ship. That performance at Monterey, although we didn’t realize it at the time, was the beginning of the end.”
Despite the setback, The Paupers’ live shows continued to attract positive reviews. Writing about a gig at West Hollywood’s Whisky-A-Go-Go in July, journalist Bill Kerby reported in the L.A Free Press: “It is joyfully unnerving to see a group bound together by other than mutual regard for dope, stardom, pedestrian ideas of musical mediocrity, and vague dreams of overnight billions.”
Following Monterey, the group had been sent on a $40,000 promotional tour covering 40 cities, and taking in venues like the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, the Boston Tea Party and the Café Au Go Go in New York. At the last venue in late September, it was the turn of The Paupers to be upstaged, on this occasion by visiting British dignitaries Cream.
Despite the tight touring schedule, The Paupers still found time to “live it up” on the road. Speaking to Ritchie Yorke, Prokop remembers one particularly memorable incident in Las Vegas. “Denny Gerrard made $3,500 on the poker machines, but the next day he lost it all, and his shirt as well. Really, he arrived back at the hotel one morning with no shirt on.” Apparently, the bass player had walked two miles from a casino because he’d lost all his money!
Grossman meanwhile was beginning to lose patience – the band was spending a huge amount of money on the road but had no hit records to justify the expenditure. According to the band’s drummer, Grossman seriously considered dropping The Paupers at one stage, but was persuaded to give the band a second chance. Faced with mounting debts, the group went on a money-saving spree, travelling to gigs in Prokop’s station wagon.
If the group’s declining fortunes weren’t enough to worry about, Gerrard’s behaviour was becoming increasingly more erratic as his consumption of psychedelic drugs reached crisis point.
Adam Mitchell remembers a number of amusing incidents during this period, including a rehearsal at the Night Owl club on Avenue Road in Toronto. “We had just been given the first cordless remote for guitar and we had Denny try it on his bass. In the interest of seeing how far away from the amp you could get and still have signal strength, we had Denny walk to the front of the club and then eventually outside. After he’d been outside a while, the signal faded as expected. So did Denny! We went outside and of course there was no sign of him anywhere. We abandoned the rehearsal and spread out in different directions looking for him. As I was heading south on Avenue Road, a rather perplexed fan approached me. ‘Man…I just saw Denny walking down the street playing his bass!’ Never did find him that day or several days after. Such was life with Denny.”
Another incident took place following the group’s performance at the Trauma club in Philadelphia. “Denny never made the plane,” remembers Mitchell. “Several days later I got a call at my place on Hazelton Avenue in Yorkville. ‘Adam, it’s Denny…where am I?’ After having him look out the window and read a few licence plates, we determined he was probably still in Philadelphia. How or when he eventually made it back to Toronto, I don’t remember.”
The Trauma gig also has an interesting side note, says Mitchell. “Two young kids brought a Les Paul for me to autograph, then ran beside the car practically all the way back to the hotel, where they permanently encamped in the lobby. Fast forward to 1988 – Gene Simmons, his girlfriend Shannon Tweed and I had been out for dinner in LA and had to stop off at a film distributors’ conference on the way home so that Shannon could make an appearance. As we entered the room, some guy started yelling, ‘Adam, Adam!’ I had no idea who he was until he introduced himself and told me he was one of those two young kids in Philadelphia. His name was Frank Stallone. The other kid was his brother, Sylvester Stallone.”
By early 1968, the group had lost patience with Gerrard’s behavior and reluctantly asked him to leave. However, as Beal admitted to Nicholas Jennings, the group was a lesser force without their inspired bass player. “Denny did for the bass what Hendrix was doing for the guitar. Nobody had seen anything like this.” Mitchell agrees. “He was absolutely brilliant as a player. His bass solo, I believe was the most electrifying thing in music I’ve ever seen.”
Gerrard’s replacement, Brad Campbell, was recruited from local band, The Last Words, who interestingly had recently appeared on the same bill as The Paupers at York University on 12 January. (The show, incidentally, also featured The Magic Circus, who also contained a number of future Paupers members). The Last Words had released three singles between late 1965 and early 1967, but only one, “I Symbolise You” issued on Columbia, had seriously troubled the charts, and no doubt Campbell was delighted to be offered the job. At the same time, The Paupers expanded the line-up by bringing in keyboard player Peter Sterbach, formerly a member of The BTB 4 (Big Town Boys 4).
Amid all this activity, the band’s debut album Magic People, which had been released back in June just prior to the Monterey festival, had slowly crept up the Billboard charts and finally peaked at a rather disappointing #178. Despite the poor placing, the album has some strong moments, most notably in its kaleidoscopic drum-driving title track. Other highlights include the infectious folk-rocker “You and Me”, the haunting “My Love Hides Your View” and the angst-ridden “Think I Care”, generally considered to be The Paupers’ definitive song. The track was lifted as a single in early 1968, but flopped.
While The Paupers failed to make any headway in the charts, they continued to live up to their reputation as a live act. On 24 February, the group returned to Toronto and played a memorable set at the Canadian National Exhibition supporting The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Soft Machine.
Nevertheless, the pressures of travelling on a tight budget were beginning to take its toll, with each man reduced to living off $2. First to crack was newcomer Peter Sterbach who dropped out sometime in early 1968. Skip Prokop, who also entertained thoughts of leaving the band during this period, apparently changed his mind when the label agreed to do a second album.
Taking time off the road, the group stopped in Nashville to record three tracks – “All About Me”, “Words I Say” and “See Yourself” but according to Beal the sessions did not go well and the recordings were shelved. Despite the failure to complete any tracks towards a new album, Beal says the Nashville trip did have its perks. “For me the highlights included meeting Tex Ritter, listening to Flatt and Scruggs record, watching one of the Jordinaires get so rapped up in a game of ping pong, he forgot that he left his car with the engine running and it ran out of gas, and above all having Floyd Cramer play on our session. It was nuts, we just called his answering service and within 15 minutes, he was there.”
Travelling to New York in early May, the group’s new producer Elliot Mazer hooked The Paupers up with keyboard player Al Kooper, who had recently been ousted from his group, Blood, Sweat & Tears. Turning his creative energies to The Paupers, Kooper’s contributions complement the group’s performances brilliantly and the resulting album, Ellis Island, recorded at Columbia Studios over several months, remains a hidden gem of late ’60s rock.
Lacking the consistency of the group’s debut outing, the record’s strength lies in its individual tracks. These range from extended hard-rock workouts like “South Down Road” and “Numbers” (featuring Brad Campbell on lead vocal), to more reflective pieces such as Prokop’s “Oh That She Might”, with a rare vocal outing from the drummer. Adam Mitchell emerges as the dominant writing force and his “Cairo Hotel”, apparently written about a hotel in Washington DC where most of the tenants were down and outs, is particularly poignant.
Another noticeable difference on the album, compared to his predecessor, is the group’s experimentation with exotic sounds – one particular track, “Ask Her Again”, features Prokop on the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument (a present given to the drummer by Peter, Paul & Mary after a Japanese tour).
With the album in the can, the band realized that it needed to reproduce Kooper’s keyboard parts in a live format, and duly recruited former Fraser Loveman Group member Jonn (aka John) Ord (b. 3 April 1945, London, England) during late July. As Ord recalls, “I had a little trio called The Nuclear Tricycle that was playing in a bar on Yonge Street. It was a summer job for me and I was at university. Skip heard about me and came in to see me. I went out to Brad Campbell’s house in Oakville to meet the band and they played me the album. I was able to play off the keyboard parts pretty fast and they thought it would be a good fit.”
The quintet quickly reconvened to Ord’s parents’ farm in Fenwick, in the Niagara peninsula. Rehearsing intensively for a week in a nearby farmhouse, the new Paupers line-up soon launched in to a small tour. The band’s debut show at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit on 2-4 August proved memorable, not least because the club still had bullet holes in it from the race riots earlier in the year.
During this period, some of the band members flew to New York between dates to do studio work. Ord, who was involved in the session work alongside Campbell and Prokop remembers working with Richie Havens on his album Richard P Havens, 1983, and also providing support for a female singer called Leonda. The sessions, as Ord points out, appear to have soured relations between band members and ultimately may have sown the seeds that led to the group’s collapse the following month. “I found out that the band was in a state of conflict and frustration, perhaps partially because some musicians were recording and the others were stuck on the road. In the end, the band broke up and everyone went home to Toronto.”
Things had come to ahead when Prokop announced his decision to leave the band after The Paupers’ engagement at the Electric Circus in New York, which ran from 29 August to 1 September. Although he would subsequently form his own outfit, the big band Lighthouse, Prokop nearly joined Janis Joplin’s new group, soon to become better known as The Kozmic Blues Band, but declined her offer.
The offer had been made during the Richie Havens sessions as Ord recalls. “Janis dropped into the sessions and we had some jams with her. Our mutual manager Albert Grossman was looking for musicians for her new band from among his own musicians. Harvey Brooks from The Electric Flag came in with her at one point and he was also looking for musicians for her.”
Prokop confirms that a number of tracks, including a version of “Hey Joe”, and some Aretha Franklin covers were recorded in the studio with Joplin and have yet to see the light of day. Joplin’s insistence on retaining Sam Andrews from Big Brother & The Holding Company for her new band project however, ultimately led Prokop to back out. Following an appearance on Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield’s Live Adventures album and supporting Mama Cass at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Prokop pieced together Lighthouse.
Brad Campbell meanwhile landed on his feet. After briefly gigging with the Pozo Seco Singers, he took up the offer from Janis Joplin. He would remain with the troubled singer until her untimely death, appearing in both The Kozmic Blues Band, and its successor, the Canadian-dominated Full Tilt Boogie Band. According to Pete Frame, he would often work under the pseudonym Keith Cherry. Campbell currently lives in Milton, Ontario and plays with a reformed Last Words.
With Prokop and Campbell out of the picture but with debts of $40,000, the remaining members decided to carry on. “I recall advocating that we reform The Paupers in Toronto as the band was well known and we could probably do well with a change of members,” says Ord. The Paupers quickly recruited local drummer Roz Parks (b. 15 April 1945, Picton, Ontario) from The Creeps and Magic Circus fame and perhaps more importantly, in terms of credibility, brought original bass player Denny Gerrard back in to the fold. Though Gerrard had spent most of 1968 recovering from his drug exploits, he had recently returned to studio and live work with Toronto’s highly rated blues combo, McKenna Mendelson and was in fighting form.
The group soon returned to the local club scene, debuting at the Night Owl on 26-27 October. Journalist Ritchie Yorke writing that November in the local RPM magazine, reviewed the show and captured perfectly the new line-up’s potential. “They emerged as a tight, cohesive musical unit, devoid of pseudo-hippiness and brimming over with confidence.”
True the group may have found a new confidence, but this was soon shattered by Gerrard’s inability to keep on the straight and narrow. As Ord recalls, “we did well for a while getting quite a bit of work and playing a lot. Then Denny started to lose it again…missing rehearsals and eventually not showing up for an important concert. The other band members said they had been through this already and that nothing worked. Roz and I were very fond of Denny and tried everything to make things work, but in the end we had to fire him and found a new bass player.”
As Jonn Ord notes, Gerrard’s departure proved a catalyst for Mitchell’s own exit from the group in April 1969. “Adam became discouraged and decided to leave also, so we replaced him with James Houston who had worked with Roz in The Magic Circus.”
Adam Mitchell subsequently embarked on a brief solo career, before moving into production work for the likes of McKenna Mendelson Mainline and McKendree Spring (who covered his song “Cairo Hotel”). In 1970, he became Linda Ronstadt’s musical director, the fruits of which turned up on Silk Purse. Mitchell also emerged as a successful songwriter, and during the ‘70s and ‘80s saw his compositions covered by John Waite, Olivia Newton-John, Art Garfunkel and Kiss to name a few. A long-awaited solo album, Red Head In Trouble, finally appeared in 1979. Mitchell currently lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Santa Monica, California and continues to produce, write and perform in the US and Canada.
The Paupers ploughed on with new members James Houston (b. 25 May 1946, Belfast, Northern Ireland) and Mel O’Brien (who had previously played with The Proverbs, The Five D and The Five Shy) but, despite some notable shows at the Night Owl during August 1969, soon ran out of steam as Beal recalls.
“James was a member of The Creeps and a friend of Roz Parks. He was a pretty good singer/songwriter… The bass player was Mel O’Brien [who] was really talented but a bit of a loose cannon. We did a bunch of local dates with Mel but it was clear that the band was going nowhere real fast. We knew we needed a record deal and booked some time into the RCA studios in Toronto to do some demos of Jaime’s tunes. Mel didn’t show up for the session and that was it for him. After that none of us had the energy or the desire to start over again so, we packed it in. A sorry end to what was once a pretty good band.”
From the ashes of the group, James Houston (who now goes by the name John Peel) formed his own group, Houston, which issued a lone single “Sally Bumper” and eponymous album for Tuesday Records during 1970.
Jonn Ord, whose band backed Chuck Berry at Toronto’s Electric Circus in the summer of 1969, later acquired a music degree from York University and currently plays in Ontario’s Georgian Bay area.
Roz Parks meanwhile worked with Edward Bear and Tranquillity Base (where he was joined by Houston) among others before changing his name to Ron. A few years ago, he issued his debut solo album Golden Rocket.
While The Paupers’ potential was never fully realized, the degree of talent within the band can be gleaned from the band’s best work, and the subsequent achievements of group’s members, Brad Campbell, Adam Mitchell and Skip Prokop.
Following a successful career with Lighthouse, Prokop leant his talents to a diverse range of projects, including working with street kids, running an advertising agency and doing jingles. Like Mitchell, he also issued a solo album, All Growed Up, in 1979 and in recent years has played in a reformed Lighthouse. Living in London, Ontario, he is currently writing his autobiography.
Denny Gerrard continued to make sporadic appearances on record throughout the late ‘60s and ’70s, most notably on Jericho’s superb eponymous album for Bearsville Records in 1971, and in his work with Rick James’s pre-Motown bands, Heaven and Earth and Great White Cane. Still revered by his contemporaries, Gerrard remains a local legend. In 1997, after years of inactivity, he made a rare appearance on record, playing with Mike McKenna’s blues band Slidewinder.
Chuck Beal briefly worked as a music producer, promoter and manager for Canadian bands. Later he worked at the Canadian National Institute For The Blind, producing the talking books series and also did some writing and research for CBC radio in Toronto. He is currently a computer consultant and has his own website.
Looking back, Mitchell is philosophical about the band’s premature demise. “As incredible as the band truly was, we were victims of just plain bad luck,” he says. “Bad luck, not only that Denny did too many drugs at Monterey and Chuck had a bad guitar chord. But perhaps more importantly, bad luck that we had the wrong record producer, the wrong studio and the wrong label. We were young, the business was new and we didn’t know any better.”
Wes Wilson Bio
Wes Wilson (Robert Wesley Wilson) is generally acknowledged as the father of the 60s rock concert poster. In 1968, he received an award from the National Endowment for the Arts for “his contributions to American Art.” He pioneered what is now known as the psychedelic poster in which blocks of letters were used to create shapes which seemed to bend and vibrate in place.
Wilson grew up more interested in nature and the outdoors than in art. He studied forestry and horticulture at a junior college in Auburn, California, then attended San Francisco State, where his major was philosophy. After college, Wilson joined Bob Carr, whose basement print shop was known as Contact Printing. As Carr’s assistant and partner, Wes Wilson did the basic layout and design for most of the work Carr brought in through contacts in San Francisco’s North Beach coffeehouse poetry and jazz club scene.
In 1965, Contact Printing was well-positioned to serve San Francisco’s burgeoning counterculture. It produced handbills for the San Francisco Mime Troupe fundraising benefits, the so-called ‘Appeal’ parties, as well as for the Merry Prankster Acid Tests. Both were linked to the newly reborn dance-hall venues through a series of benefit concerts, so it is no surprise that the dance-hall promoters soon found their way to the Contact press. Wes Wilson’s first poster was self-published. Done in 1965, it features a swastika within an American flag motif, a protest by Wilson to the ever-increasing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Wilson designed the handbill for the Trips Festival. He attended the event and was deeply moved by what he saw and experienced.
Wes Wilson had also been doing the posters for promoter Chet Helms’ shows at the Straight Theatre. It was Wilson who designed the original logo for the Family Dog and who did the posters for the brief series of Family Dog shows at the Fillmore Auditorium, and then for the first series of Family Dog shows at the Avalon Ballroom. Soon he was doing that work plus doing the posters for Bill Graham’s shows at the Fillmore. After several months, Wilson stopped producing for the Family Dog venue and concentrated almost exclusively on posters for Bill Graham’s Fillmore events. He cites that with Chet Helms and the Avalon Ballroom, he was often given a theme around which he was asked to improvise, while with Bill Graham and the Fillmore, he was given complete freedom to design whatever he wanted. Wilson enjoyed the added artistic freedom.
Wes completed 56 posters for Bill Graham in only 14 months, averaging one poster per week for the Fillmore. His first poster for the Fillmore was the second concert BG 2 (the only concert that did not have a band) and he did all posters to BG 26 picking up again at BG 28 through BG 51 and then again at BG 53 through BG 58 and then BG 62. Wes told me that Bill hired him as he was the only person that Bill knew who could design, print, and distribute a new poster every week. Wes’s other major breakthrough was in his use of color — inspired by the light shows of the concerts themselves, he mixed colors with wild abandon, resulting in jolting visuals that perfectly captured the revolutionary essence of the music his art promoted. His work quickly moved beyond the confines of the psychedelic subculture into the mainstream, resulting in profiles in magazines including Time, Life, and Variety; however, in May 1967 he stopped producing posters for Graham, claiming the promoter had failed to honor their existing royalty agreement. He produced BG 69 with the poster depicting a snake swallowing money with a swastika over its head. Bill Graham was Jewish and not happy with the poster; or with Wes. Wes did not do another Fillmore poster until December 1968.
Here are Wes Wilson’s details of the story as told to Collector’s Weekly:
I had signed a contract with Bill. I’d been copyrighting my posters, so he said, “We’ve got to work out a contract.” By that time, people were starting to collect posters, so we sat down and worked out a deal. We signed and initialed it. His attorney was supposed to clean it up, make a copy, and then we were going to re-sign it. It was all officially approved, but it was kind of messy because it had all these handwritten notes on it.
I was going to get a 6 percent royalty on it, which was pretty good. I knew what was going on at that point. But then he broke the agreement right away. An article came out in “Time” magazine reporting that he’d sold 100,000 posters. So I said, “Look, Bill, I want to see more of my royalties. I’m due $6,000, just for that one thing.” He got all upset, and we went from being friends in the morning to being enemies that afternoon.
I was with a couple other people when we went to confront him that day. We were ready to see the books. When things went badly, we agreed to go and fight it out outside. Bill Graham said okay to that, and as we walked out the door onto the sidewalk, Bill quickly turned around, locked the door behind him, and disappeared up the stairs. From that day on, he continued to cheat me out of lots of money by not honoring our honestly agreed-to and mutually signed agreement. Of course, I went to a lawyer, then a couple of lawyers, and they all basically said, “Oh, my God. You left your signed contract in Bill’s trust. You don’t even have a copy of your own; you might as well just forget it.”
On the last poster I did for him at that time, I was so mad that I added a snake with a dollar sign in its mouth. Bill had shown himself to be a lying crook rather than an honest person. That was an unfortunate choice on his part, but it was his choice nonetheless. That’s how I lost all of my respect for Bill Graham.
After a friend showed Wesa copy of a 1908 poster done by the Viennese Secessionist artist Alfred Roller that contained an alphabet and lettering style similar to what Wilson had been doing, Wilson absorbed the Roller style, altering it in an explosion of lettering creativity that changed the poster scene permanently. His style of filling all available space with lettering, of creating fluid forms made from letters, and using flowing letters to create shapes became the standard that most artists followed in order to put “psychedelic” in the art. The first clear example of this—and a key piece in Wilson’s history—was the poster BG-18, done for a show with the Association at the Fillmore Auditorium. Set in a background of green is a swirling flame-form of red letters. With this poster came a new concept in the art of that time—perhaps the first truly ‘psychedelic’ poster. Wes proudly informed me that this poster was being shown at the National Museum of Modern Art.
The Art Nouveau style of celebrated Czech designer Alphonse Mucha was another major source that influenced Wilson’s work. In late 1966, Wilson created a poster for Bill Graham’s Winterland that has been nicknamed “The Sound.” (BG-29) It combines Wilson’s ability to fill all available space with vibrant, flowing letters together with his admiration and respect for the feminine form. It is one of a handful of posters from that era that is considered representative of the entire period. Wilson’s treatment of women and the feminine form is one of his most lasting contributions to the poster art of the sixties. It has been said that the psychedelic poster—as we have come to know it—was defined by Wes Wilson sometime in the summer of 1966. Wilson did his last poster for Bill Graham in May of 1967 but continued to produce posters for the Avalon and other venues.
In 1968, Wilson was surprised to learn that he was to receive a $5000 award by the National Endowment for the Arts for “his contributions to American Art.” In fact, Wilson, who was considered a leader, if not the “key” artist, of the psychedelic poster scene, was also profiled in such major magazines as Life, Time, and Variety magazines. Wilson also created a new technique in enameling glass as art and developed a watercolor style, which was well received at his one-man show in San Francisco in 1973. Then, in 1976, Wilson relocated his family to a cattle farm in the Missouri Ozarks.
With the publication of the, now classic, poster book, “The Art of Rock ,” Wilson was invited, in 1989, to exhibit his classic poster work at the Springfield Art Museum. The success of the resulting show, “Looking Back: Rock Posters of the 1960s by Wes Wilson,” rekindled Wilson’s interest in the poster scene and he went on to create and publish “Off The Wall™,” an in-depth journal on poster art and contemporary ideas. The nine issues of this, now out-of-print, publication are eagerly sought after by poster enthusiasts. Wilson was also the executive producer of three Rock Art Expos — large poster conventions on the West Coast. Over the years, Wilson has also been featured in a number of gallery exhibits, both his classic and his contemporary works.
Today, Wes Wilson creates paintings, but still occasionally does new posters or new art of interest. He is in good health and has six children and ten grandchildren — so far. He and his wife of over 40 years, Eva, who is now a doctor of psychology, are still living on their farm in southwest Missouri.
About the seller
I lived in San Francisco from 1973 to 1993; the last several years in an apartment building on the eighth floor where I could literally drop a rock out of my window down to the Fillmore Auditorium. While living in San Francisco, I befriended Ben Friedman owner/operator of the Postermat located at 901 Columbus Ave one block north of the hustling Broadway nightlife and tourist attractions; the largest purveyor of psychedelic rock posters in the world at the time. Following his purchase of all Avalon posters from Chet Helms in 1969, Ben negotiated with Bill Graham to purchase all posters in Bill’s possession for $.50 each. Bill Graham thought that he was crazy asking “What do you plan to do with them” as the concerts were now over? Ben replied “I buy them from you for 50 cents and sell them for a dollar.”
Ben and I spent hours over two decades talking about Fillmore posters and the artists, many of whom who drop into the store needing money and selling Ben some of their works. I was fortunate to meet many of them including Rick Griffin before his tragic motorcycle accident. Ben allowed me, and to the best of my knowledge only me, to actually sort through his stacks of Fillmore posters affording me the opportunity to purchase the most perfect. On rare occasion, after closing the store and feeding the resident rats (they actually learned Ben’s routine for closing the store and always feeding them before turning out the lights), Ben and I would go upstairs to his apartment; quite the experience. Ben had no lights upstairs with the only night light coming from the nearby nightclubs and restaurants. Ben had LOTS of cats that he fed with paper food plates that were scattered everywhere. Ben would allow me to forage through boxes of unorganized posters looking for oddities and rarities.
For certain posters, I had to ‘work’ Ben for months. I remember the rare Avalon FD 20 poster that he had hanging on his store wall for years that I wanted, but he didn’t want to sell it to me. Eventually, with great patience taking well over a year, I was able to obtain it. One day I was at the store working on Ben to get another rare poster that he kept in his upstairs apartment as he also didn’t want to sell this one to anyone. Again, with great patience, on this day he agreed to have his companion Blandina Farley go up to get it. As she was bringing it into the store, the Great Earthquake of 1987 hit; the name of the poster that I was purchasing was the Avalon poster FD 21 EARTHQUAKE featuring Bo Diddley. My fiancé had just arrived from out of country three days prior; it was quite a night.
I had made an offer to Ben to purchase about 15-20 posters at one time for $35 each but Blandina intervened and objected to this purchase saying that if he sold many of them at one time that he would quickly run out of these prestigious posters. “He would never let you buy what you wanted to buy,” said Paul Grushkin, author of “The Art of Rock: Posters From Presley to Punk.” “He would let you buy three or four max. You’d have to stand there for hours wheedling him to pull out what you were looking for. Hundreds of us used to be supplicants to this guy.” I was one of those hundreds.
I had the good fortune of personally meeting and obtaining signatures of artists Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelly, David Singer, Randy Tuten, Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso and Lee Conklin. Eric King assisted me in obtaining the very hard to get signatures of Bonnie MacLean, ex-wife of Bill Graham, who wanted at the time to separate herself from her ex-husband and the entire Fillmore subject. Eric also helped me to obtain several very rare posters including a mint copy of BG 74. Eric King is the renowned expert on Fillmore posters.
I was able to befriend Stanley Mouse to the point where once a year we would have a dinner together. I visited his home and studio in Marin County where I purchased dozens of rare progression posters and other works of art; one of which now hangs over my bed. I was also able to visit Victor Moscoso’s studio where he was working on artwork celebrating the 25th anniversary of Woodstock that he was presenting to Time Magazine. The subject was the iconic bird sitting on the guitar neck; but now the bird was represented as a skeleton. For some reason Time did not select this piece for their cover? I was in the computer business and would trade computer graphic equipment with David Singer for rare posters (many of them non distributed double posters) and signatures. He was quite the soft-spoken gentleman who enjoyed telling me about the progression of his career which now included the exciting new graphic art opportunities with computers. I visited Randy Tuten in his beautiful Victorian home in San Francisco where I was also able to obtain many items and of course signatures. Wes Wilson came to my home and signed well over 60 posters; sharing many stories of how he was chosen by Bill Graham to do virtually all of the early posters as he was the only one that was able to design and print individual posters under the tremendously short time line of a poster a week. They eventually had money disagreements and separated for months.
I have dealt with all of the major dealers including Jacaeber Kastor, Dennis King, Eric King, Ben Friedman, Philip Cushway, Paul Getchell, Ed Walker, Debi Jacobson, Larry Marion, Denis Mosgofian (son of Tea Lautrec Litho Printing owner Levon Mosgofian), Robert Beerbohm, unfortunately Bob Metzler, and many others.
In what is now 40 plus years of collecting, I have assembled what I believe to be one of the finest collections of Fillmore and Avalon posters and handbills. While Jacaebor Kastor, Eric King and Paul Getchell have a more impressive overall collection of early rock and roll posters, I believe that for completeness, condition, and signatures, my Fillmore collection will compare to any. These posters have been maintained in archival books holding approximately 40 posters per binder. These binders are stored in a custom made solid oak cabinet with cocoa bola trim making them to also be what I believe is the most accessible and viewable collection of these historic pieces anywhere.
These posters were all collected by me between 1968 when I graduated from high school until 1993 when I moved from San Francisco. I have not purchased any since that time. This was a hobby of passion, for both rock and roll and the extremely unique and beautiful city of San Francisco where I was privileged to live for 20 years. Therefore, I have very mixed feelings about separating from this collection, but now that I am retired, it seems like a good time to evaluate.
For now, I am starting by selling some of the duplicate Fillmore posters which I will add on to monthly. At the same time, I am in the process of photographing each poster from my “complete set” of Fillmore posters documenting all authentic printed versions and re-verifying versions, condition, and signatures. This will take time so I will list below what I have completed now on this set and update this list in the future. I have no real idea what this complete collection is worth so I will have to figure out how to list it when the time comes. I have no intention to break up this complete set. As described, I have taken great pride and effort in caring for and storing this pieces of history and can assure you that I am offering some of the best condition posters available anywhere.
Bill Graham and San Francisco’s Fillmore West made significant contributions to the history of Rock and Roll in support of many performing artists including on regular basis; Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Bill Grahams ‘house band’ of Carlos Santana. And of course these historical posters giving us the Art of Rock!!!.
I thank you for your interest in looking at them and hope that should you purchase one that you will appreciate the uniqueness of the subject of the San Francisco Fillmore Rock and Roll experience.
Complete Fillmore Poster Set – Book 1
Bill Graham Memorial (Signed by R. Tuten), BG 1 (1st printing, handling marks on edges, no pinholes or creases), BG 1 (2nd printing, single pinhole in each corner, minor color fading), BG 1 (3rd printing in mint condition), BG 2 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 2 (2nd printing, has four very tiny pinholes – three of which are so small that they don’t show up on pictures), BG 2 (3rd copy signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 3 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 3 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 0 (1st printing signed by B. MacLean in pen in mint condition), BG 0 (Variant first printing signed by B. MacLean in pen in mint condition), BG 4 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in blue ink in excellent condition; very slight aging of white and one small pinhole in top corners only), BG 4 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 5 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pen in mint condition), BG 5 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 6 (1st printing – strong purple color - signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 6 (2nd printing – more reddish color - signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 7 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in excellent condition having slight wave on right border and pinholes in each corner), BG 7 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 8 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pen (pencil?) in excellent condition having very slight toning of white border and pinholes in top corners), BG 8 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pen in mint condition), BG 9 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pen in outstanding condition with one very small pinhole in each corner; very hard to see), BG 9 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in ink in mint condition), BG 10 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 10 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 11 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 11 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pen in mint condition), BG 12 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition with two very small brown spots in lower right corner), BG 12 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 13 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 13 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition with several very small brown spots in lower left corner and left border), BG 13 (3rd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pen in mint condition), BG 13 (4th printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 14 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 15 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 15 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition) BG 16 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 16 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 17 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 17 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 18 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition), BG 18 (2nd printing signed by Wes Wilson in pen in mint condition), BG 19 (1st printing signed by Wes Wilson in pencil in mint condition).
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