Haight & Ashbury

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation such a strange vibration
People in motion
There’s a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion people in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

“In the land of the dark, the ship of the sun is driven by…” SFGD

“Oh my God, now we have gone to heaven. We have got Janis Joplin.” Sam Andrew

San Francisco Sound was Rock music performed live and recorded by San Francisco-based rock groups of the mid-1960s to early 1970s. The new music was loud and community-connected: bands sometimes resented free concerts in Golden Gate Park and “happenings” at the city’s several psychedelic clubs and ballrooms. The many bands that formed signalled a shift from one subculture to the next.

The new sound, which melded many musical influences, was perhaps heralded in the live performances of the Jefferson Airplane (from 1965 on), who put out an LP record earlier than nearly all the other new bands (September 1966).

 “A core of Haight Ashbury bands played with each other, for each other, for free and at Chet Helms’s Avalon Ballroom and Bill Graham’s Fillmore.” journalist Ed Vulliamy

Jefferson Airplane Takes Off is the debut album of San Francisco rock band Jefferson Airplane, released in August 1966 as RCA Victor LSP-3584 (stereo) & LPM-3584 (mono).

The personnel differ from the later “classic” lineup and the music is more folk-rock than the harder psychedelic sound for which the band later became famous. Signe Toly Anderson was the female vocalist and Skip Spence played drums.

Both left the group shortly after the album’s release and were replaced by Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden, respectively.

The bohemian predecessor of the hippie culture in San Francisco was the “Beat Generation” style of coffee houses and bars, whose clientele appreciated literature, jazz, and folk music, modern dance, and traditional crafts and arts like pottery and painting. The entire tone of the new subculture was different.

“Jon McIntire [manager of the Grateful Dead from the late sixties to the mid-eighties] points out that the great contribution of the hippie culture was this projection of joy. The beatnik thing was black, cynical, and cold”. Biography author Robert Greenfeld

Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. The band was known for its unique and eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, country, improvisational jazz, psychedelia, and space rock

The name “Grateful Dead” was chosen from a dictionary: “… [Jerry Garcia] picked up an old Britannica World Language Dictionary…[and]…In that silvery elf-voice he said to me, ‘Hey, man, how about the Grateful Dead?'” The definition there was “the soul of a dead person, or his angel, showing gratitude to someone who, as an act of charity, arranged their burial.” Phil Lesh

“The Grateful Dead” was recorded by Warner Bros. Records, and was released in March 1967. According to bassist Phil Lesh in his autobiography “Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead”, the album was released as “San Francisco’s Grateful Dead”.

“to my ear, the only track that sounds at all like we did at the time is Viola Lee Blues. … None of us had any experience with performing for recording … although the whole process felt a bit rushed.” Phil Lesh

The album was seen as “a big deal in San Francisco.” Even though this was true, it did not see much air play on AM radio stations outside San Francisco. It would be a couple of months before free-form FM radio stations began to take shape.Warner Bros. threw the band a release party at the Fugazi Hall in North Beach. Joe Smith is noted for saying he is “proud that Warner Bros. is introducing the Grateful Dead to the world.”

The lyrical content of the San Francisco Sound was both emotional (which carried over from early rock & roll) and intelligent, reflecting the influence of such pioneering contemporary lyricists as Bob Dylan and John Lennon. Lyrics were deliberately, and often skillfully, poetic. In this respect for poetry, the San-Francisco-Sound writers were no doubt also influenced by the Beat Generation poets of the San Francisco Renaissance of a decade before (and, incidentally, Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder had already served to influence people like Dylan). The quest for convivial good times, for love, empathy, brotherhood, and solidarity, for increased wisdom, for harmony with nature, and for personal and collective fulfillment was represented in lyrics.

Monterey, California is about 120 road miles south of San Francisco. At the June 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Bay Area groups (Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and The Holding Company) performed from the same stage as established and fast-rising individuals and musical groups from the U.S., England, and India.

Big Brother and the Holding Company is an American rock band that formed in San Francisco in 1965. They are best known as the band that featured Janis Joplin as their lead singer. Their 1968 album Cheap Thrills is considered one of the masterpieces of the psychedelic sound of San Francisco; it reached number one on the Billboard charts,

Big Brother went on to become the house band at the Avalon Ballroom, playing a progressive style of instrumental rock. Feeling a need for a strong vocalist, Helms contacted Janis Joplin in Austin, Texas, who at the time was considering joining up with Roky Erickson of The 13th Floor Elevators. She traveled to San Francisco and debuted with Big Brother at the Avalon on June 10, 1966

“We were the established rock and roll band. We were heavy. We were like: all right, out of three or four bands in this city, we are one of them. We’re in the newspapers all the time. We’re working out. We are doing this woman a favor to even let her come and sing with us. She came in and she was dressed like a little Texan. She didn’t look like a hippie, she looked like my mother, who is also from Texas. She sang real well but it wasn’t like, “Oh we’re bowled over.” It was probably more like, our sound was really loud. It was probably bowling her over. I am sure we didn’t turn down enough for her. She wrote letters home about how exotic all of us were. The names of the bands. That kind of thing. In other words, we weren’t flattened by her and she wasn’t flattened by us. It was probably a pretty equal meeting. She was a real intelligent, Janis was, and she always rose to the occasion. She sang the songs. It wasn’t like this moment of revelation like you would like it to be. Like in a movie or something. It wasn’t like, “Oh my God, now we have gone to heaven. We have got Janis Joplin.” I mean she was good but she had to learn how to do that. It took her about a year to really learn how to sing with an electric band” Sam Andrew described the band’s first impressions of Janis

Big Brother & the Holding Company is the debut album from Big Brother and the Holding Company and the studio debut of Janis Joplin. It was originally released in the summer of 1967, following the band’s major success at the Monterey Pop Festival. The album was a minor success, peaking at #60 and almost producing a top forty hit with the song “Down on Me”.

A year after its initial release, Big Brother would release their second album Cheap Thrills which went on to become a massive hit. “The Last Time” and “Coo Coo” do not appear on the original Mainstream release, only available on a 45 rpm single; they were added when Columbia Records reissued the album

“The Summer of Love had an empress, and her name was Janis Joplin.”


“Women, in a few cases, enjoyed an equal status with men as stars in the San Francisco rock scene—but these few instances signaled a shift that has continued in the U.S. music scene. Both Grace Slick (singing with Jefferson Airplane) and Joplin (singing initially with Big Brother & the Holding Company) gained a substantial following locally and, before long, across the country” – Journalist Ed Vulliamy

Because San Francisco had an especially vibrant and attractive countercultural scene in the latter half of the 1960s, musicians from elsewhere (along with the famous hip multitude) came there. Some stayed and became part of the scene. An example would be the Sir Douglas Quintet, whose music took on more of the character of the San Francisco Sound, while yet retaining some of its original Texas flavor.

Another example is offered by Mother Earth, fronted by female lead singer Tracy Nelson, who relocated to the Bay Area from Nashville.

Main groups: Jefferson Airplane – Grateful Dead – Quicksilver Messenger Service – Country Joe and the Fish – Big Brother and the Holding Company – The Great Society – Sopwith Camel – Santana – Sly and the Family Stone – Serpent Power – Strawberry Window – Malo – Frumious Bandersnatch – Moby Grape – It’s A Beautiful Day -Tripsichord Music Box – Blue Cheer – The Flamin’ Groovies – We Five – The Beau Brummels – The Mojo Men – The Charlatans – Fifty Foot Hose – The Ace of Cups – Steve Miller Band – Sons of Champlin – The Steve Kimock Band – Mother Earth – Hot Tuna – New Riders of the Purple Sage – Kozmic Blues Band – Blackburn and Snow – Butch Engle & the Styx – Family Tree – Ribbet – Vic Radulich Lance Sherwood Joe Gemma St. John – WAG – The Mystery Trend – Salvation – Dinosaurs – THE ORKUSTRA – The Wildflower – Shiver

Exploration of chordal progressions previously uncommon in rock & roll, and a freer and more powerful use of all instruments (drums and other percussion, electric guitars, keyboards, as well as the bass) went along with this “psychedelic-era” music. Brasses and reeds, such as trumpets and saxophones were rarely used, unlike in contemporary R&B and soul bands and some of the white bands from the U.S. East Coast (e.g., Blood, Sweat & Tears or Chicago). Sly & the Family Stone, a San Francisco-based group that got its start in the late 1960s, was an exception, being a racially integrated hippie band with a hefty influence from soul music, hence making use of brass instrumentation.

Other Bay Area bands: Aum (Bill Graham’s Fillmore Records) – Country Weather- Walnut Creek – The Savage Resurrection- Richmond – Creedence Clearwater Revival- The Chocolate Watch Band- Morning Glory – Count Five- Syndicate of Sound- The Loading Zone- The Immediate Family – The Living Children – The Vejtables- Millbrae – People!- Stained Glass- Cold Blood- Tower of Power- The Doobie Brothers- The Arthur Montford Experience – Kak– Davis – Overbrook Express – Earth Quake – The Andrew Hallidie (band)- Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.

Other bands associated with The San Francisco Sound: Mad River – The Youngbloods – The Neighb’rhood Childr’n



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