Rick is a writer who has shared some of his awesome Jimi Hendrix
stories with me and I wanted to post them on this site. Consequently,
I created a separate section just for Rick, but I encourage anybody
else who has kool Hendrix tales to tell, to send them in and I will post them
on Rick's page.
So kick back.....
In late 1967 I joined with some fellow students at Sacramento State College to form a "social club" at the school. It was a rag tag bunch of students; several football players, several music students, and three guys in bands. We called it "The Students for the Appreciation of Pop Music" and our sole purpose was to bring big time rock and roll to Sacramento. Oh, Sacramento had its share of local rock and roll bands, but some of us had worked in a light show all summer at Kings Beach Bowl on the north shore of Lake Tahoe and the bands that played there were the part of the sixties rock explosion; The Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Quicksilver Messenger Service were a few. We saw the impact they had and we figured that if we could get a big facility in Sacramento like the Men's Gymnasium on campus we could bring some of those acts to the school. Thus we had to form the "social club" to be eligible to use the gym. We had to get an academic sponsor, a professor, which we did; write up a charter, and elect officers. The professor helped us do that and we became a legal entity at the college and immediately got down to business.
At Tahoe we had done the light shows and hadn't hired the bands but the owner of the Bowl had relied on our suggestions on who to hire and let us deal with the booking agents so were ready to wheel and deal with our connections! We had a meeting, decided how much money we had to start off with and began calling. Our first call turned out to be a winner. Creative Artists Management in Los Angeles had Big Brother and The Holding Company with Janis Joplin open on a Thursday night and we booked them on the spot. It turned out to be a great show since they were rapidly becoming famous and they filled the gym and we banked some money in our "next show" account. I had a hunch it was going to be an exciting time when Chuck Barnett the agent at CMA called me the day before the Janis Joplin show and told me he just got an open date on Jimi Hendrix less than a month after the Joplin show and we could get him at a good price. It would be good for us and Hendrix because they had a hole in their schedule and if we took them it would complete a tour. We went with our collective gut feeling and even though we hadn't produced a show yet, we committed to hiring Jimi and sent the deposit money. Given the short notice Barnett assured me he'd have the signed contracts back to me within a day or so.
However, as the date grew near we still didn't have the signed contract and the radio stations and newspapers we were advertising with were warning us about a last minute cancellation which would have done us and our bank account in. Therefore, since Jimi was playing on Feb. 1st at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco with Albert King and John Mayall and The Blues Breakers, we'd just take a little trip to San Francisco and tell Bill Graham the promoter that we were promoters too so he'd let us in and we'd get Jimi to sign it in person!
Standing outside the Fillmore after Bill Graham had told us he didn't care if we needed to see Jimi or not; "get in line and buy a ticket, I've got problems of my own", we were both excited to see Jimi, and apprehensive as to what was going to happen; so far we didn't have a contract and Bill Graham the man who could have taken us directly to the dressing rooms had shot us down! Nevertheless we bought tickets and entered the Fillmore. Once inside we headed right for the dressing room and told the security guard who we were and that we had to pick up the contract. Luckily he went for it and opened the door. Stepping inside my vision swept the smoky room which was full of people. Men and women in regular clothing, others in total hippie attire, several Fillmore staffers and what appeared to be several musicians. It looked like what I had imagined, a true behind the scenes hangout. But, in one corner seated in an overstuffed arm chair was one Jimi Hendrix. He stood out like a sparkling jewel. His colorful clothes, radiating smile and the fair maiden sitting on the arm of his chair formed a perfect picture of a rock star before the show! Of course he knew nothing about any contract but had heard that they were going to Sacramento. "Hey when I get there we can hang out a bit!"
It was quite a night, Mayall and King were great but Jimi was on his meteoric rise and blew everyone away. We drove home later that February night marveling at what Jimi had done and stopped worrying about the contract! Hey, Jimi said when he got to Sacramento we'd hang out a bit so that was that!!!
Jimi; Part 2. "Are they on the plane?"
Wednesday February 7th 1968 wasn't a normal day, you know, get up, get going, and take care of regular things, instead it was a day to take care of something which revolved around one thing; Jimi Hendrix and company were supposed to arrive at the Sacramento airport that afternoon for our concert the next night. Since talking to Hendrix in San Francisco we'd continued advertising the concert even though we'd never gotten a signed contract back so we were flying on hope and trust alone, but were prepared to pick them up at the airport according to the contract rider they'd sent. It called for a limo and three cars to take them to the hotel, "Buick's or Cadillac's are preferred", and a truck for the equipment. We arranged for the limo and managed to get a Cadillac and another "big" car from some girlfriends parents and we borrowed the truck from the local music store for free tickets. We gathered at noon and agreed to meet at the airport at 3:00 p.m. The plane we hoped they were on was due in at 4:45. We did know they had played the night before in Tucson so we found out what gate the incoming plane from Arizona was arriving at and asked the ticket agent there if this was the plane Jimi Hendrix was on. The agent kinda coughed and said they couldn't release the names of the passengers. We took a few steps back to decide what do next and when I looked back at the ticket agent and he slightly nodded "yes". Collectively our spirits rose, it was gonna happen. After what seemed to be a very long time we saw a plane taxi up to the covered extended ramp and heard it shut down its engines. Shortly an airline agent opened the door leading down to the plane and people started coming up the ramp. As people filed off I heard some of them who had people waiting for them to stick around, "hang on, you have to see this!"A small crowd formed and suddenly coming up the ramp in rainbow colored splendor were Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, and Mitch Mitchell. Brilliant waistcoats, hats with feathers and plumes, jewelry, bags slung over shoulders, wild boots and confident smiles; they were on stage right then. Time froze for those who had never seen anything like that up-close and as the rest of their entourage passed by audible whispers, snickers, and conversation filled the area. Digital cameras and cell phone cameras would have working overtime that day and I bet there isn't one person who was there that has ever forgotten that experience!
Like everything else up to this point the transportation rider was different than what was really happening. All the equipment was in a truck coming from Arizona and they'd rented several cars from Hertz but Jimi and a couple people wanted to ride in the limo we hired so we had a rock and roll caravan through town to the Holiday Inn where they told us they were staying. Pulling into the parking lot was a preview of what was going to be happening; we hadn't even known they were coming for sure, but in the parking lot were a couple dozen girls waiting for them! How they knew what time they were getting there, and where they were staying, could only be attributed to them having met someone when the band played in San Francisco that knew what was happening; they definitely had inside information!
A couple of minutes later the tour manager had the rooms and Hendrix and company headed to their respective palaces with several guests. As promoters we'd set aside a bit of cash to offer to buy Jimi and his buddies dinner or a beer or two if they felt like it. The tour manager thought that was a good idea so we went up to Jimi's room to see if he wanted to go. We knocked on the door and when it opened clouds of smoke escaped and as we walked inside we saw Mitch, Noel and Jimi all taking super 8 movies of each other horsing around. Like kids they bounced all over posing and surprising people with a camera to the face. It was quite a sight and when I looked down at the coffee table I saw a huge baggie full of hardball size balls of golden hashish. I had met the attorney traveling with them at the airport and saw him standing near the bathroom watching intently. I walked over to him to say hi and he looked at me and said; "see why they have me along?" I told him I understood there was more to the legal side of rock and roll than just non-existent contracts and useless contract riders. "Yes, you must keep an eye on the boys" he continued in his proper English accent, "you never know about these lads and the young women who cross their paths. Speaking of that, Gerry the tour manager said you wanted to spot us a bite in the restaurant. Is that correct?"
I told him yes and he walked through the smoke and chaos to the center of the room. "Okay lads, we're off for a bite, gather up!"
Jimi part 3. Let's go hear some music!
Well, Jimi passed on going down to the restaurant opting to stay in the his room with several of his new found friends and a couple of guys from our club so a few of us, their guys, and Mitch and Noel descended on the unsuspecting restaurant staff and proceeded to give them about 45 minutes of complete, but colorful, confusion. Items as common as mustard drew questions from the Englishmen "why do Americans put Mustard on everything?" referring to two of our guys who were putting it on their hot-dogs and hamburgers. "Ketchup too, probably put it on ice cream!" They were definitely the focus of attention the restaurant and were relishing the stares from the "normal" patrons.
After our little journey to the restaurant we went back up to Jimi's room where Jimi and the others were enjoying themselves with a variety of substances all geared to bring on fun and frivolity! We all kind of stood around jabbering for a few minutes then a plan was hatched. Jimi had heard that blues legend Bobby Blue Bland was playing that night at the Warehouse, a large nightclub not far from the hotel and could we go there?
By now the limo was gone so it was back to the cars we had so Jimi and Mitch and their road manager Gerry and six of us split up into three cars and shot several blocks away to the club. We got to the door and the sign said Bobby Blue Bland was indeed playing but it was the next Wednesday! Undaunted we proceeded to enter the club to catch the band who was performing and I will never forget the look of disbelief on the their lead singers face when he saw Jimi Hendrix sitting down at a table not far from the stage. Jimi tipped his hat to the singer and the poor guy just about dropped. He regained his composure long enough to finish the song then announce that it was break time! Gracious as ever, Jimi walked over to the stunned band and introduced himself and offered to buy them a round. They all shook hands and made small talk for a minute then Jimi returned to the table and the party was officially on.
The Warehouse was a big place with a couple of barrooms, one for rock music one for soul and blues music. We were in the soul/blues room which had three African American waitresses who were looking at us like we were from another planet. Since I had the cash for the "welcoming" party I ordered several pitchers of beer from the one of the waitresses and after she brought them over I went to pay her and she motioned for me to follow her. I followed her back up to the bar and the other two women came over and the question was; "who is that brother in the wild hat?" They had probably never even seen a picture of Jimi Hendrix since they were much more soul music girls than rocker girls so when I told them who it was they just looked at one another and shrugged. "Okay then have you heard Foxy Lady?"I asked. Two answered at the same time "Oh yeah! That is a cool song, is that really the dude that sings it? He's kinda cute." I assured them he was and they managed to make a trip or two to our section every few minutes from then on, smiling the whole time!
The night was flying by and it was closing time before we knew it so Jimi and a few others said they wanted to stop and get something to eat before calling it a night. There were several people who were very cosmically high and food wasn't something they were thinking about but the whole group decided to head to the Carl Greer Inn just down the road. Everyone insisted I invite the waitresses, which I did, and they showed up and joined us a little later. That was a double take for the night staff I can tell you, we were in fine form; loud, happy, colorful and stoned, then on top of it the three women from the club show up all styling and looking Foxy and adding some more flash to our circus!
After we all finished Jimi handed me a bunch of money under the table and insisted; "pay for it with this, man," so I paid up and we were off into the night. When we left the crew from the restaurant and the other patrons who had been watching the whole scene started waving good-bye and cracking up. I don't think they'd experienced anything like that before!
As we glided back into the hotel parking lot I saw more girls waiting and as we got out of the cars to say goodnight to Jimi and company I knew that the band and traveling entourage weren't going to be calling it a night soon. So those of us who were leaving shook hands with all the guys and vowed to have a great concert that evening!!
Jimi; part 4.
Well I don't know how much rest anyone got the night before the concert. It was late when we called it a night and dawn crept up early. From there on it was the fire drill routine. Get to Sac State, get keys to the gym, let the crew with the portable stage in, help cover the gym floor with a tarp, watch Jimi's equipment truck arrive with his equipment and that of The Soft Machine an English psychedelic progressive rock/jazz band traveling with him, and a bunch of light show equipment from a German light show company whose equipment wasn't compatible with American electricity. That was ok though because we had our own light show which we set up behind the stage to light up the transparent screens we hung from the rafters. Then more equipment and the PA system arrived as The Creators, our opening band showed up. Two of the members of that band, also in our club, assembled the PA system while we set up the rented super trooper spot lights to front light the stage. Fortunately since we'd already had Big Brother and the Holding company with Janis Joplin we had a good idea how to get it all set up although it must have looked like a completely unorganized bunch of hippies as we went about our tasks; but we got it all ready to roll.
We got the key to the box office and several of us got that set up and ready to open well in advance of the concert and began counting the money we'd taken in from ticket sales on campus and from Tower Records Tickets. We had a lot as sales had been good and as soon as we opened there were people buying what we had left.
Two cops had been hired and about twenty minutes after we opened the doors to let people in the Fire Marshall showed up. The sight of the rapidly filling gymnasium brought a startled look to his face and I know he wanted to shut us down for being over capacity. However, he sucked it up and told me he'd have to go back and check some regulations and if he found any violations he'd return. He never came back! The cops were cooler, the two we'd hired had worked the Janis Joplin concert for us and they saw that it was a total hippie show with the same audience that was at that one, so they didn't anticipate any trouble. That was before the heavy duty drug onslaught, although no doubt some chemical concoctions from guys like Stanley Owsley were mixed in with the happy smoke, I mean Jimi did sing "Purple Haze" so it was fitting!
Anyway, the cops knew that except for an occasional bad trip people were there to party and rock out to someone most of them had never seen, but had heard about! It was going to be a party not a riot!
The first bizarre thing that happened was one of the light show operators had placed some tiny brine shrimp in a mixture of mineral oil and food coloring in clear plates and put it on an overhead projector. The shrimp would swim around and when projected on the screen there was a vivid image of a swirling mass of color with little things darting to and fro. The problem was that after testing it the operator forgot to shut off the projector and the poor shrimp got cooked! Needless to say they scratched that from the show.
The second thing was the drummer for The Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, only wearing a loin cloth, had a massive migraine headache backstage right before they were set to go on. He lay writhing on the floor everybody held their breath. There were no medical personal around, we never thought that far ahead, but with cold towels applied to his head and encouragement from his band mates, Jimi and all his guys, he rose like a boxer getting up off the canvas and took the stairs up to the stage and magnificently leaped over the front his drums with loin cloth flying and began pounding the hell out of them.
At that point I had to go back to the box office and settle up with Gerry the road manager for the rest of the money we owed on the contract. It was strictly a cash deal with Gerry and I sitting at a table with a stack of cash and counting it out. Hell we didn't even have the door locked, but you know, one just didn't worry about that in that era. We heard the Soft Machine finish and the applause of the crowd so Gerry and I stopped counting and headed back to the dressing room which was the Men's locker room in the gym complete with two complementary six packs of beer a stack of clean towels!
The crowd was excited to see Jimi and the energy was way up and walking through them behind the bleachers was amazing. It was a giant buzzed feeling, something was about to happen.
Inside the dressing room Jimi, Mitch and Noel were standing around waiting. The girls from the Parking Lot were there with cameras and had taken pictures and there were some other people there but it was totally the calm before the storm. Hardly any conversation. Gerry was the guy who led them up to the stage so when we got there he gathered them up and headed to the stage. Everyone else took off to get out front and shortly after Jimi hit the first note in a totally quiet gymnasium and you could hear the crowd accepting it, Gerry re-appeared and we went back to the box office to take care of the rest of the business.
From the time we re-entered the box office until we finished the only sounds we could hear were the screaming guitar riffs from Jimi, the distinctive sound of Jimi's vocals and the booming bass and thudding drums amid the cheers and wild applause of the excited crowd. Then as suddenly as it began there was a final smash of a drum ending it all. For a moment there was total silence then and explosive roar and Jimi was gone and the bright gymnasium lights came on revealing several thousand people standing and trying to decide what they'd experienced. Gerry and I shook hands and took our respective sacks of cash and set about our after show duties. I saw Jimi once again, thanked him, shook hands and just like he had entered our lives he tipped his hat, smiled his magical smile and disappeared into a moving crowd of colorful English characters as they got into the waiting vehicles and sped off to another adventure.
After that show they banned rock concerts in the Men's Gymnasium but for those several thousand people who had been there, the mention of Hendrix at Sac State still brings smiles to their faces!!
Something in the music.
I was on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle when my phone started ringing. It was a client and I was a salesman; a rock music agent, always on the lookout for clients and new bands. I was the kind of local agent who sold to rock clubs and taverns and the golden rule amongst agents like myself was "if you’ve got the jobs you’ve got the power" and in early 1978 I had some power. I worked in Seattle booking a bunch of large rock and roll taverns that paid bands well. I always needed bands for the club owners who were very picky so when the voice on the phone had said; "meet me at Peter Guys in an hour and check this band out, you'll get your mind blown" I'd listened.
Peter Guys was an unusual place for the Seattle area at that time. Located in Kent, a town minutes out of downtown Seattle it was a small lounge with hard liquor located in a mini mall across the street from a 500 seat rock and roll tavern that only sold beer and wine. What made it unique besides selling hard booze, was that it had live music, rock music, not lounge or piano bar music that most lounges had. The guy who'd called owned the big club across the street another big one in Belleview and two others in Seattle and was affectionately known as "Fun Phil." He was an important club owner and we worked together daily on his entertainment schedules for all the clubs. So driving from Queen Anne out to Kent in a blinding rain storm I figured he was on to something. He always wanted to be the first, to have the best. He'd woken me up in the middle of the night several times to tell me to go check out a new band and a couple of times it had paid off. I hoped this was another deal like that; I was taking my life in my hands on the freeway in the deluge!
When I pulled into the parking lot of Peter Guys I saw Phil's empty car, a sliver 280 Z, and figured he was inside. I ran across the lot through the rain and ducked into the entry way leading into the club. Suddenly I was propelled backwards to about ten years earlier when I heard and felt a similar kind of energy that was now rushing at me, it had been Jimi Hendrix blasting through "Foxy Lady" mesmerizing a standing room only crowd; people who were transfixed and wide eyed in awe. Well one thing I knew for sure was that it wasn't Hendrix playing in there, he'd died in 1970, but It could have been his ghost, the hair on my arms was bristling as I walked into the lounge area and saw the source of the sound and energy pirouetting colorfully with scarves flying across a small stage bathed in light from one stage light hanging hap hazard from the ceiling. When I'd seen Jimi Hendrix he was on a big stage with concert lighting and a colorful light show and there were about 4,000 at that show and everyone was totally into it, there were only about 75 people in Peter Guys, but the two audiences had one thing in common; they got their minds blown!
An hour later Phil and I sat in his office at the Ad-Lib Tavern across the street from Peter Guys. "What did I tell you? Nobody around here has ever seen anything like that. Find out who his agent is, split the commission with him and I'll use him all the rooms. That was amazing; I've never seen anything like those people watching, they couldn't take their eyes off that kid."
That was the beginning of the journey working with Randy Hansen who along with band mates Tim Kelliher, and Larry Epperly, set the Northwest afire as Randy Hansen's Machine Gun; A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
The best part was Phil had dates for him I had to fill, so I had the good jobs to offer Randy. That was a good thing because the agency he was going through, The Bill Stephan agency, was ninety percent lounge acts. Light cocktail trios, uniformed mellow top forty bands, and a couple of 50's show bands but no trios like his. They knew they couldn't keep him working on their circuit so their agent made a deal, split a months worth of commissions and I took over from there.
Before they'd began doing the Hendrix show full time Randy, Tim and Larry were in of the 50's show bands Stephan booked; Kid Chrysler and the Cruisers. They did a lot of other impersonations including Alice Cooper, Mick Jagger, John Kay of Steppenwolf and Randy Bachman of B.T.O. and when Randy started doing his Hendrix impersonation it blew everyone away but Kid Chrysler broke up so the three band mates decided to try Jimi full on. That's when they were at when I first saw them in 1978, they were just beginning their Hendrix trip; mine had begun as a college student meeting him in 1968. They didn't know where theirs would take them and I certainly hadn't known where I was headed, but something in his music was pulling all of us along.
Something in the music; part two.
After Jimi Hendrix played Sacramento State on February 8'th 1968 life took a dramatic turn for me. A few weeks later I was approached by a radio salesman from K.R.O.Y radio, Sacramento's leading rock station, who had sold us our ads for Jimi's show, about meeting with a man who owned an advertising agency and was interested in opening a dance/concert hall. Our student club had continued doing shows at Sac State in the Women's Gym but it was a lot smaller than the men's gym so our options were limited. We could only use it occasionally and only used semi-big acts. The biggest we used there was Blue Cheer just after "Summer Time Blues" hit the charts. But business people were realizing that Sacramento was a great stop off spot for big acts heading to and from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The problem was that Sacramento had no real venues like the Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms in San Francisco or the Palladium or Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. So the radio ad salesman and the man with money were looking for someone who they thought might be interested in running a dance/concert hall and since my name had been on the Hendrix contracts I was the guy they were looking at. Actually there was an existing dance hall in Sacramento; The Coconut Grove Ballroom and another rumored to be opening, The Mill, an old rice mill in downtown Sacramento, but The Mill was just in the talking stages and the Coconut Grove was booked every weekend with soul shows or traditional big band dances.
However, the radio guy and investor had an ace up their sleeve. They knew a man who owned a good sized building on Alhambra Boulevard that had been a hardware and air conditioning store before it closed. The owner wasn't sure if he wanted to sell the building or lease it out, so the two of them wanted to approach him, explain to him what it would be and see if it would fly. They talked to him; got the key, called me and we met to walk through the place. It was perfect. It had a mezzanine ideal for light shows, a basement which had small rooms, great for dressing rooms, and the main floor was very large with no obstructing views or poles. The only problem was the building was bare with high ceilings and flat untextured walls. An echo chamber if there ever was one. But it was a building and that's we all were worried about. If a deal could be struck we'd have a good size hall available to us at all times. Like with the shows we'd done with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, having a place to play in between the big cities would give us some bargaining power. We had a formal meeting, reached an agreement with the building owner and my college student days were over.
It was a baptism under fire and once the process of remodeling the building and making it rock ready it moved rapidly. We hired several local bands guys to sound proof the walls with empty egg cartons glued to the walls, and two contractors to build a stage and remodel the three basement offices. I moved into one of the offices downstairs got phones and recruited a friend of mine who managed a local band to work with me. Around town in the music community the word was spreading and I was on the line to the agents as well. Suddenly the phone was ringing non-stop and people traffic was intense. I hired a rock and roll girl to act as secretary and got down to planning the opening and who was going to play. We did a couple test runs with a Davis California band, Kak, to test the sound and with only one detail left to take care of we got ready to open in late June but that almost didn't happen because the detail we hadn't taken care of was getting a dance license from the city. The city council had to approve it and there had been some rumbling by two of the neighboring business, a car dealership and a furniture store. They had visions of hippies running wild through their parking lots, smoking pot and making love on the street. On the other side of the coin two other businesses, Luis’s great Mexican restaurant, and Baskin Robbins Ice Cream, loved the idea of hungry concert goers so it turned into a small political skirmish. We won on the strength of a former Mayor of Sacramento's endorsement and the police Chief weighting in on our side. The ex-mayor was a lifelong friend of the building owner and the Chief knew he'd have no problem letting some of his off duty officers pick up easy money by standing around watching people rock out! We were mandated to have six officers per night and keep the area clean of litter and we agreed and so did they; we got the license. It was like the Janis and Jimi shows, we'd never done anything like those before so it was scary and of course we didn't have a clue, but hey, why not?
Something in the music; part three.
The name of the dance/concert hall ended up being The Sound Factory and it opened with great fanfare on June 28'th and 29'th , 1968 with Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Young Bloods and H.P. Lovecraft, all San Francisco acts. The summer rocked along and by August we'd booked Spirit, Steppenwolf, Country Joe and the Fish, The Chambers Brothers, lots of local bands and got a great deal on Pink Floyd who showed up a night early and played for a couple of hours for a captivated crowd of about ten people who were working the light show and the janitors! The sound of that band echoing in the empty hall was amazing; to this day I still can't compare it to anything I've ever heard!!
However, our summer of love came to an abrupt end after the Pink Floyd show when it was discovered that the advertising executive had been pocketing money from his advertising agency and not paying the radio stations and other vendors. That put the breaks on big-time and we were forced to close. No money, no shows! There was a scramble to find somebody with money who might want to step in and right the ship financially wise. I knew a married couple who had some money and managed a local band, Brotherhood Rush, so I talked to them and they wanted in so we re figured what we could and made plans to re-open because The Sound Factory had been rocking and people loved it. Then in the midst of planning we received another set-back. The license had been in the ad excs name and as soon as the auto dealership and our other detractors found out they appealed to the city council for a new hearing on the license. We tried everything we could including several of us getting our hair cut in public to show our willingness to be cool and good neighbors, but they denied the dance license! They gave us a license to have gatherings but no dancing! Ironically there had never been much dancing in the Sound Factory anyway, it was always crowded and people sat on the floor and dug the music and lights but the fact that we were now on a restricted license and working with a limited budget was slowly bringing us to our knees. The big agencies heard the news and were hesitant to offer their top acts for fear that we just might close. People were confused as to whether we were open or not and after a final attempt to keep it going and negotiating to book Ten Years After and Jethro Tull for two final shows the doors sadly shut in March of 1969. All of the people who had been involved with the exciting opening and running of the Sound Factory felt let down, disappointed and disillusioned. What had been a great summer of incredible music and life went down under the weight of the Ides of March. It just wasn't meant to be at that time. For all of us, our great adventure came to an unexciting end. Personally for me, music seemed to lose something; its magic, but at the same time a Seattle Washington teenager by the name of Randy Hansen was finding something in the music; the magic, from listening to another Seattle Native Jimi Hendrix putting magic into it on the milestone album "Are You Experienced"! Little did I know that in a few years I'd meet that teenager who once again showed me there was something in the music; magic, just like Jimi Hendrix had shown me.
Something in the Music; part four.
After the The Sound Factory closed I kinda bounced around for awhile. That had been an intense 24 hour a day way to live and eke out a living but it was gone and I wasn't sure what was next so I moved to Lake Tahoe for awhile then back to Sacramento and got a job in a factory that made truck radiators. Time ground along slowly compared doing music until a friend of mine who played in one of the bands we'd used at the Sound Factory got a hold of me. He had another band and would I help him with the promotional side of things and maybe help him get some jobs? I thought it over and decided to give it a shot; I did miss music and that life, but was leery of parts of it.
Needless to say that was the beginning of my becoming a full time booking agent working the Northwest. It was like The Grateful Dead song about "a long strange trip" but that's a good way to describe how I ended up in Seattle in an office on Queen Anne Hill. I had come from booking one nighters at schools to tiny taverns and clubs in small towns, to gathering enough accounts and bands to break into Seattle which was a happening place. Heart just had signed a record deal and there were several other local bands under heavy scrutiny from labels. The big taverns like the Aquarius, Ad Lib, Flight Line and The Office were packed with agents and record scouts. Up north in Vancouver BC several acts were breaking out nationally so the Northwest was enjoying a hot time. I had gradually built up a small stable of good bands and with steady accounts and that was good. But the scene was happening so fast that some of the club owners decided they'd like to get into managing a band themselves. They knew bands, agents, and other club owners. Problem; it was a full time job to do it right and running their clubs took a hell of a lot of work and energy. Solution; put some money into a band, since they all needed it, and hire somebody to do the promo, logistics and booking. So the best case scenario was to have their own agent who just booked their band for top dollar. It was important for that agent to have good connections like I did because if his band was hot the other agencies would be losing jobs to him and would try to dissuade their clubs from booking the act. Over the years I'd knocked around in the music business I'd learned one thing; agency battles can be costly for bands, clubs and agents.
Like being approached by after the Jimi Hendrix show I'd been approached by one of my clients after seeing Randy Hansen. I was his agent, he saw the band he wanted and he was willing to put up enough money to get it rolling. He wanted me to find out everything about the band and get it going. He had one of his clubs for sale and it was closing quickly so he wanted to get going. Hey, I was ready. I was very impressed with Hansen, he had the magic that held people, it was fantastic to listen and watch a real show of shows even on a small stage in a little lounge so I got busy with the same feeling I'd had back in the student days; excitement, I couldn't wait to see it all unfold. There was magic in music again, that something that had been missing.
Something in the music; part 5.
Randy Hansen and Machine Gun captured Seattle's attention and since Randy was a friend of Heart’s guitarist Rodger Fisher, seeing members of Heart and other name musicians and bands in the audience was a frequent sight as well as Heart's manager Ken Kinner was also impressed by Randy, Tim and Larry.
However my first assignment was to get Randy out of the small lounges and into bigger venues. I had worked with his agent before and he told me Randy was available but had a manager I needed to talk to so I booked Randy into a downtown Seattle Club, The Library, near the U of Washington, and met his manager Ray Hartman. Ray owned American Music, a music store in Seattle and had the equipment end of the band world down but had no experience with managing a band. I explained to him that I had a guy who wanted in and had some start up money to help get Randy Hansen and Machine Gun on their way to the big time. Ray also wanted to deal with one exclusive agent so when I told him that was the plan he agreed to meet with Fun Phil. At that meeting that Machine Gun Music was born. It was wild, mishmash of personalities;Randy just wanted to play, Fun Phil wanted to make it big and Ray just kind of liked to stay in the background but soon we had a office, got the promo going and the band got an Itasca Motor home to travel in and the wheels started to turn. At first we had Randy, Tim and Larry play in Canada while I got to work on a tour in California using my connections and other agents I knew. The tour was set for Randy to just do his show and have other bands open for him. That was unusual in that he had no record and hadn't been doing it that long, but we had a video of an appearance at the Ad-Lib made by a Seattle photographer we'd hired. We made copies and everyone one of the buyers who saw it had booked the band. They were rooms like The Starwood in Hollywood, The Golden Bear Ballroom in Santa Monica and others. It was a total rush for the band, Fun Phil and me. It was the re-incarnation of Jimi and the first time California crowds saw it. They flipped out. I had seen the reaction in Seattle but that was hometown and the California tour brought it all into focus. This was hot; the looks on the faces of people when Randy and the guys were blasting away were exactly like the looks I'd seen when Jimi and his guys were firing off. It was snowballing like the whole thing had a mind of its own. Suddenly I'm getting calls from magazines like Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone, newspapers like the L.A Times and The Orange County Register and the San Francisco Chronicle. We'd made our headquarters the notorious Highland Inn on Highland Boulevard in Hollywood right down the street from the Hollywood Bowl and it was a scene out of a great rock and roll adventure movie! It was like Jimi in Sacramento all over, party till the cows come home! By now the band also added four roadies/drivers, John Lambert, Bob Yellam, Ed, "the lost pilot" and Floyd Rose who later invented the Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo first endorsed by Eddie Van Halen so we had several rooms and after the shows they filled up with fans, mostly girls. Dawn would find people scattered all over the place but since Randy had to get up and do interviews I had the task of finding and waking him, not always easy!
We’d all been in, and around, bands but this was amazing. It was a mini Beatlemania or Jimi mania and began to really move. I was getting calls from all over the West and Ray in Seattle was getting them too. I'd lock myself away in the room when the band was eating or rehearsing or sightseeing and work on getting a follow up to California and bigger shows. Sleep seemed to come around occasionally!
Two things resulted from being in California, one was two young promoters with strong old line Hollywood connections approached me about their becoming an exclusive concert promoter for Randy Hansen and Machine Gun. They were planning to work with Concerts West doing strictly concerts, hardly any club work. That was appealing to the band, I thought it was good, but Fun Phil and Ray weren’t going for it. They believed we could do all the promoting and arranging. Plus they were worried about giving away a percentage of the management fee Randy was paying. In all fairness the business of managing a band was new to them and at the same time I got a call from Ken Kinner about doing several dates with Heart and that convinced Fun and Ray we could do it all by ourselves!
So armed with a truck load of great experiences in California we set sail for Seattle and the impending whirlwind world of rock and roll and music that had that something in it, it was the feeling of sheer magic; of taking off, but not knowing where you're gonna land!
Something in the Music; part 6.
Seattle here we come! If the California trip had shown the band that they were getting hot it also showed the management group that there were several other parties interested in working with Machine Gun Music as promoters, additional agents, concert packagers, and one major company, Concerts West, wanted to sign Randy Hansen and Machine Gun to an exclusive deal which would put them on major concerts around the world. As their agent, besides making sure they were working, I wanted them to get the best shot they could get. The two concert promoters from Southern California and Concerts West were the best way for the the band to go. Since they didn't have any records and weren't on radio or television they had to be seen in person to get the full effect. The big highly promoted and record company underwritten shows in the big areas were the way to go. Of course that met again with a round of solid "no's" from Phil and Ray so I had no choice but to continue on as we had trying to make club owners pay for a group that needed good money and only did one long set per night. When they hired Randy they had to have another act, another cost to the club, so it was tight in many instances. However, a day or two after we'd returned to Seattle I got a call from Far West Entertainment a local agency I'd previously worked for about a date headlining a concert at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. That venue was big with the band and crew, they'd all watched major acts play there and now they had a chance to headline, and without a record. They'd only been out of the south end taverns for a few months and now they were headlining a concert; heady stuff indeed.
Suddenly it became really exciting to be back in Seattle. The news of the upcoming show hit the streets via the radio and newspapers who had taken a fancy to Randy Hansen. They saw a young local guy going against long odds and trying to make it as the absolute best tribute to that other local guy Jimi Hendrix. Our office in a building on Lake Union became a hot spot as well. Other acts getting wind of what was going on started showing up in hopes of possibly getting signed. Machine Gun Music was technically a management company but I still was an agent so there were a couple of situations that I took care of along with taking care of Randy. However, inside of this shinny world loomed a real problem. Ray and Phil did not want to give up any part of their percentage of what Randy and company was bringing in. For me that was a crippling problem. Daily I was getting feelers and offers from the various promoters but they were sticking to their guns and would only take on the project of exposing Randy Hansen and Machine Gun to the masses with a percentage of the action. Personally I knew Randy, Tim and Larry just wanted to play and as long as they were making a good living like they were they were fine. They felt they wanted to be in with the best and didn't realize that there was a monetary price to pay for that. Ray and Phil had money tied up in the program and as first time band businessmen they hadn't grasped the magnitude of what was ahead. Unfortunately I saw the writing on the wall. Randy I think saw it as well. He had a loyalty to Ray since he'd first set him up with equipment but he knew that unless a miracle happened his shot at fame was going to be limited because of Ray and Phil and their attitude. He and John Lambert had spoken with the promoters in Southern California and they had suggested they leave Ray and Phil and take me and move down to Los Angeles. It had impressed them and they had been discussing it but we decided to leave it as it was until after the Paramount show. That would be a big factor in what decisions were going to be made. The major promoters were watching and my phone was ringing off the hook with questions. I realized this could be the final piece of the puzzle, if this went well we might just possibly be able to become a valuable enough band that we could and would be booked on major shows. It had happened fast but that's how it goes in rock and roll!
Something in the Music; Part 7.
The Paramount Theater is Seattle is an old style theater. A main floor and balcony with several side boxes. It was ornate and the stage was wide and deep behind a heavy velvet type curtain. Since it was an old building the dressing rooms and other rooms were downstairs and that's where I found Randy and the rest of the crew after he had brought the house down with a blazing night of rock and roll. The capacity crowd was in awe, I ran into several promoters in the lobby and they were giving me the "hey I'll give you a call" sign. It was by all accounts a total success. After I'd paid the agents and promoters I'd headed down to the dressing room and when I opened the door I saw Al Hendrix, Jimi's Dad and Jimi's sister. There were tears in their eyes and they were thanking Randy for a vivid and powerful memory of their Jimi. It was very moving and eerily quiet for an after show dressing room. It was in the air, the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, one could feel it, it was that intense. At that moment I also felt a spirit, Randy Hansen was destined to become a star, one that would blaze as long as Randy wanted it too. He might not ever reach mainstream fame; no top forty songs or best selling albums, but there would always be a place for a man as talented as he is. Jimi Hendrix music will never die and to this day no one does it better than Randy. It's as if the same star that dropped notes for a young Jimi in Seattle to hear also dropped those notes for a young Randy in Seattle. A unique and magical combination of people, places and music; rare at best.
However, for me I saw that I had peaked out. The next step was going to have Randy, Phil and Ray come to terms on who owned what, and who was going to reimburse Phil for his initial outlay. I had done my part in getting everyone together, an agent's function, but the next step was going to change the foundation of Randy Hansen and Machine Gun Music forever and as agent my hands would be tied for awhile. There was no way an offer for Randy and the band was going to include me and until they got into the next frame it would be hard to book them because life could change quickly and the bookings would be useless. There was real money involved now and seeing the packed and raucous Paramount meant dollar signs to Phil and Ray. My interest had basically been coordinating what I thought was a great group of guys and a couple businessmen. Now I was going to step away and let the cards fall as they may. It had been a great experience and having dealt with both Randy and Jimi I felt the rock Gods had been good to me.
Within two months I was no longer involved with Machine Gun Music but never lost my connection to the musicians who helped pull off some great rock and roll!!!
I still remain convinced it was Something in the Music and today Randy Hansen is still rocking in America and Europe.
To catch Randy in action go to www.randyhansen.com
The still photos are courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org
Live on Easter Sunday in Yachats Oregon!