Sunday, October 30, 2011

That Elusive First Show

    I think one thing that surprised me when starting out researching various bands was that being able to confidently identify the first time they performed before an audience proved to be more difficult than I expected.  Now, you would think that the first time you performed would have impressed itself on your mind if you are a musician and it does...just not the details.  And that's why I do what I do.
   So let's turn to a band that I've done several decade's worth of research on - Poco.  This is a photo from their early days when they were known as Pogo...or R.F.D....or whatever they felt like that given night if you believed latter-day interviews (which I didn't).  Check any given rock history and the Poco entry will tell you they made their debut as Pogo at the Troubadour in Los Angeles in November 1968.  More detailed interviews with the band in the early 1970s revealed that their first performance was a hoot night - meaning they weren't billed, they went on as one of a number of unknown groups.  This was clearly going to be difficult unless anyone with the group remembered the date...which they don't. Plowing through November  1968 issues of every Los Angeles newspaper also didn't provide any new information.
   In delving through some early promotional material, I came across a press release from Epic Records that quoted several newpaper concert reviews...and one was a review that my research had not uncovered.  Since I'd looked at every November issue, I expanded my search into October and sure enough, a review for a performance by R.F.D. on October 24th that included an early promotional photo of the band appeared.  The writeup noted that the band had filled in that night for a band who had cancelled.  The review also noted R.F.D. had debuted earlier at a hoot night under the name Pogo but they had since changed it.  So October 24 was not their first show.  But it did show that all the previous sources pointing to November as their debut were incorrect.
   Additional research showed that Monday nights were traditionally hoot nights at the Troubadour so the best I can do is that October 7, 14, and 21 were the Mondays and on one of those nights, the band to ultimately become known as Poco made their debut.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Consider The Source(s)

Perhaps the greatest challenge or frustation for a historian is the lack of sources or the lack of definitive sources.  This is especially true in the area of pop culture like rock n' roll.  You'd think that there would be definitive biographies, release dates for records, tour itineraries, recording sessions, and the like.
But the fact is, in most cases, there isn't because no one felt that rock music or rock musicians would be around for more than a couple years.  They were the equivilant to the vaudeville animal act.  An documentation that is still around must be taken with a grain of salt.  Many a press release contain outright falsehoods - such as the initial press release by ATCO records for Buffalo Springfield that stated that the band was so poor it rehearsed by the side of the road and that's how they spotted the Buffalo-Springfield steamroller doing road work and that's how they came up with the name.  It's amazing to see how many teen magazines quoted that press release word for word in their initial coverage of the band.
So what's left for the rock n' roll  historian is scattered documentation tucked away by a band member or road crews, newspaper articles and trade publications that tell part of the story but it's up to us to piece it together.
Next up...I'll talk about some stories of how that's been done for my research into Poco.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moondog Coronation Ball

As I mentioned in my first post, the Moondog Coronation Ball on March 21, 1952 is generally accepted as the first rock n' roll concert.  It was unique in that the performers were racially mixed and performed before an integrated audience.  Remember, this was 1952 and most of society was segregated and would remain that way for years to come.  Cleveland DJ Alan Freed promoted this show and he is credited by many to have coined the expression "rock and roll."  He had no trouble filling the 10,000-seat Cleveland Arena for this show at $1.75 a ticket.  Tickets sold out the day they went on sale.  Freed would have a troubled career and die way too early.  But in the formative years of rock, Freed was a solid promoter of the genre. 
     As for the show itself, it proved to be a disappointment.  An additional 6,000 fans showed up hoping to get in. When they were refused admission they began pounding on the doors.  At 9:30 pm, they managed to enter the Arena by overrunning police and knocking down four doors.  With 16,000 crammed into the venue, the police and fire marshall called a halt to the show without the opening act finishing their set.  Ah...rock n' roll.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where Do I Start?

      At the beginning....right?  But the fact is, I actually started somewhere in the middle when it comes to rock n'  roll history.  My interest in history began when I was young.  I was born and raised in a small foothill town in California surrounded by Gold Rush history.  My family had already lived in the area for four generations.  So history is part of my DNA, I guess.
      Fast forward to the mid-70s and I'm in college and reading Rolling Stone religiously and I'm collecting them.  Not as collectibles, but as sources for concert dates.  I started making lists of concerts and record releases for the groups that I liked.  Those never-ending lists.  I'm still making them. 
      So that's how I started.  And quickly found that using the Stone was incredibly limited.  So I've broadened the scope of my sources.
      Microfilm....miles and miles of microfilm.  That was the next resource I discovered and I've spent literally years hunched in front of readers squinting at indistinct text and blotchy photographs.
      And the internet...a virtual miracle!  An incredible resource but frustratingly scattered and notoriously incorrect at times. 
      My journey has not been without some focus.  Long before computers I had compiled a pretty comprehensive list of Buffalo Springfield concert dates and I had started on a list of Poco concert dates.  That has blossomed into a website devoted to Poco concert dates and associated members solo work.  More on that later. I've also supplied research for other people's books and websites and have much more in the works.  So let's see where this takes us.
     Oh, and the beginning...most people say it was this: