Next spring marks the 50th anniversary of both the Georgia Straight and the landmark Human Be-In at Stanley Park. Leading up to that, the Straight will be publishing short articles and local concert-poster art to detail the events and spirit of the late 1960s in Vancouver and the flowering of the psychedelic age.
As I write this story, 50 years after I started in the music-promotion business in Vancouver, I am getting ready to attend several music festivals. There, I will be promoting and signing my book, The Afterthought: West Coast Rock Posters and Recollections From the ’60s.
Two of the festivals are put on by Victoria’s Atomique Productions: Rock the Shores (just finished) and Rifflandia (in September), both of which are in Victoria.
I will begin and end the summer tour with these two great festivals. I find this interesting, as I have known the principals of these two festivals since their youth. They would come to my house and talk to me about being music promotors.
One of the other festivals I am going to is early August’s CannaFest in Grand Forks. (I think the name says it all; indeed, times have changed.)
Who knew that 50 years later I would still be involved in the business? The above poster is from July 1966, and what a trip it’s been. Bruce Doward created his first rock poster for the Bitter Sweets, and then he would go on to do several more for my Afterthought Dance Hall, housed in the Pender Auditorium. I believe Bruce was 16 years old when he completed that first poster. He was also the first bass player for legendary local band the United Empire Loyalists.
I once tracked Bruce to Hollywood, California, and met for lunch. After he left the band, Bruce went on to art school and developed an international career in commercials and film.
On July 29, 1966, Vancouver had its first Trips Festival, put on by a group of individuals all older than myself (I had recently turned 18). In writing about the Trips Festival, the poster for which is reproduced below, I have come to believe it was the first of its type in Canada. (The original was held in San Francisco in January that year.)
One of the principals was Sam Perry. I naively asked Sam why he was putting on a Trips Festival and he said that they wanted a much bigger event locally than what I had been producing.
It was at this festival that I met many great bands. It would be the first show in Canada for the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the second appearance of Jefferson Airplane. I was a pushy kid and thought nothing about going backstage to meet all the bands; this was my first encounter with a green room. When I met Jerry Garcia, I felt a connection. This also happened with Janis Joplin. They both invited me to San Francisco, a trip I would eventually take in January 1967. This trip would prove to be a life-changing experience for me.
I wanted to ask one of the many San Francisco bands at the Vancouver Trips Festival to perform at my Afterthought. I decided that the Grateful Dead would be the best choice. The Dead would be the first of many bands from the U.S. that I would book for the dance hall.
Upon reflection, I think that for being a kid who had just turned 18, I made a good first choice. Though I knew nothing about booking a band from outside the Vancouver area, this was probably a good thing. I asked Jerry if his band wanted to play at my dance hall the next weekend. He said “Sure,” and I then asked how much he wanted for a performance. He came back with $500 for the night, plus accommodations. I said, “Cool,” we shook hands, and we had a deal.
That $500 became the benchmark for the highest amount that I would ever pay a band. At the time, I thought it was a lot of money, but I could live with it.
Now I had to find accommodations for the band. My dad did a lot of printing work for local motels, so I asked him for ideas. He sent me to friends who had a motel on Kingsway. I told the manager what I needed and he showed me a large room with more than enough beds for the band members. It seemed fine to me.
Next, I had to arrange how to get the band to the motel. I believed the band was fine with the accommodations because I knew where they had stayed before and I figured it was an improvement. However, infamous Frisco LSD manufacturer and early Dead soundman Owsley Stanley, who introduced himself as their manager, was not happy with the accommodations. I told him that this was the best I could do.
Stay tuned for the outcome.