By Mark Purdy
43 S. Fifth St., San Jose -- One of the world's most historic
rock-'n'-roll sites. On Dec. 4, 1965, the Grateful Dead played its
first gig here at an "acid test" organized by author and LSD advocate
Ken Kesey. The Rolling Stones played a concert at San Jose Civic
Auditorium earlier in the evening, and Kesey's followers handed out
fliers inviting concertgoers to the DayGlo party at a large house
near San Jose State University. A band from Palo Alto formerly known
as the Warlocks provided the entertainment after changing its name to
the Grateful Dead a few weeks earlier. The entire episode is
documented in Tom Wolfe's book "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." In
former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman's autobiography, he writes that Keith
Richards and Brian Jones also dropped by the party. Later, the place
served as local headquarters for the radical Students for a
Democratic Society (SDS). The house was moved when San Jose's new
City Hall was constructed.
635 St. James St., San Jose -- New location of the acid test/Grateful
Dead house. The San Jose Redevelopment Agency moved it here when a
buyer offered to renovate the 1895 Victorian if it were moved to this
lot. The interior renovation is under way, but the exterior has been
redone spectacularly. Bill Ekern, the agency's director of project
management, had no clue of the structure's past while he supervised
the move. "I'll have to go back and read Wolfe's book," Ekern said.
"We made a decision to save as many of the homes on the City Hall
site as possible, and I'm glad." Another former resident of the
house, Ron Cook, says it later was the home for his band,
Throckmorton. Cook and his pals filled the basement walls with sand
to create a soundproof rehearsal space, and it became a virtual open
house for many musicians, including Moby Grape member Skip Spence,
the future Doobie Brothers and Stevie Nicks, then a San Jose State student.
970 S. First St., San Jose -- In the early '60s, this now-vacant
storefront was occupied by Off Stage. For a couple of years, before
police shut it down on a pot bust, the place was the hippest spot in
San Jose. It's where local folkie Paul Kantner, a student at San Jose
State and Santa Clara University, met acoustic guitar wizard Jorma
Kaukonen, a Santa Clara student. The two went on to form Jefferson
Airplane. Others who performed there included Janis Joplin, David
Crosby and Mother Macree's Uptown Jug Champions, which included
future Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan.
1600 Martin Ave., Santa Clara -- An unlikely spot for psychedelic
frolic, this former roller-skating rink was converted into the
Continental Ballroom. It was the South Bay's answer to San
Francisco's Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms. The 1967 grand opening
show featured Big Brother and the Holding Company along with
Quicksilver Messenger Service. The Doors played there later the same
year. A bootlegged tape of the performance that night circulates on
the Internet. Apparently, it was a wild scene. Dave Aguilar, lead
singer for Chocolate Watchband, recalled a memorable pie fight with
another band that was set up by the promoter as a publicity gimmick
but got out of hand, and the audience rushed the stage to join in.
The building later became One Step Beyond, a popular '80s nightclub,
and now is occupied by an industrial tools warehouse and export company.
285 S. 12th St., San Jose -- Tom Johnston rented this house while
attending San Jose State, and it became a home for jam sessions with
his friends. After meeting Patrick Simmons at a gig in Campbell, the
friends eventually evolved into the Doobie Brothers, the most
successful pure San Jose band in history. Johnston wrote "Listen to
the Music" in the home's living room. It's still a private residence.
47 Notre Dame Ave., San Jose -- Raise a toast to the Palomar Ballroom
(later known as the Tropicana Nightclub), which sat on this property
but was tragically razed to make room for yet another downtown condo
development. The Palomar was the site of San Jose's first big
rock-'n'-roll shows and made national headlines on July 7, 1956, when
Fats Domino showed up two hours late for a show. The boozed-up crowd
of 3,500 began throwing beer bottles and firecrackers. Police were
called, and there were 11 arrests. According to San Jose State
history professor Larry Engelmann, newspapers from coast to coast the
next day called it a "Rock And Roll Riot," the first time such a term was used.
3277 Todd Way, San Jose -- The Syndicate of Sound rehearsed here in
bass player Bob Gonzalez's house. He and singer Don Baskin wrote the
song "Little Girl" in the garage. Most of the band attended nearby
Camden High School, now defunct.
Revere Avenue, San Jose -- The street where Count Five came together.
Singer/harmonica player Kenn Ellner lived at 1465 Revere Ave. When he
heard that a new kid from Ireland had moved into 1470 Revere Ave.
across the street, Ellner walked over and introduced himself to John
Byrne. The two formed a group with other buddies from Pioneer High
School. The song "Psychotic Reaction" was first performed during a
rehearsal in Ellner's living room. It later became a
punk/psychedelic/garage classic, named one of the 500 most
influential songs in the history of rock.
147 S. Morrison Ave., San Jose -- Greg Camp, songwriter and lead
guitarist for Smash Mouth, rented this modest home in the St. Leo's
neighborhood while he was scuffling around with various bands around
town. He eventually hooked up with some other San Jose guys and
formed Smash Mouth, the city's biggest rock export of the 21st
century. Camp composed many Smash Mouth songs here, including one
about an annoying former neighbor on the street, "Heave-Ho." It
appears on the band's first album.
344 Tully Road, San Jose -- You wouldn't know it today because of the
property's bleak dirt state, but the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds
once hosted one of 1967's biggest rock-'n'-roll events, the Northern
California Folk Rock Festival. It was held again in 1968. Featured
groups included the Doors, Jimi Hendrix and one of the first American
appearances of Led Zeppelin.
436 University Ave., Palo Alto -- Original location of St. Michael's
Alley, a coffeehouse where Joan Baez and Jerry Garcia first performed
as folk artists. Now an optometry store called Site For Sore Eyes.
High and University streets, Palo Alto -- The former site of Top of
the Tangent, another folk club where a teenage Bob Weir first met
Garcia and became enamored of his guitar playing. They formed a
lifelong friendship long before they became the Grateful Dead. The
building burned down in 1971.
4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto -- The Beatles stayed here at the
Cabana Hotel on their only known visit to Santa Clara County. With
too much frenzy surrounding their appearance in San Francisco,
promoters decided to "sequester" the band far away in Palo Alto. Fans
found the group anyway and created hysteria outside the building. Now
the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
160 Persian Drive, Sunnyvale -- Still going strong as the Brass Rail
nightclub, now a "gentleman's establishment" for exotic dancers but
once a hotbed for rock. Opened in 1960, it first hosted such groups
as the Coasters and Shirelles, and then became home for all the great
South Bay bands. Bob Gonzalez from Syndicate of Sound remembers
playing there in a show opened by the Golliwogs, which later became
Creedence Clearwater Revival. But the most legendary performers there
might have been Sonny J and the Tombstones, which would pull up to
the club in a hearse, haul a coffin out of the back and place it on
the bar -- whereupon a saxophone player would jump out and start the
band's first song.
12345 S. El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills -- Foothill College was home
base for Chocolate Watchband, later to become a legendary psychedelic
group that still has young fans today who enjoy the group's raw sound
from back in the day. Watchband members all attended the school. "The
name of the band was dreamed up when a couple of guys in the band
were free-associating at the Foothill student union," lead guitarist
Tim Abbott once told the Los Altos Town Crier newspaper. "It was at a
time when that kind of stuff made sense."