Palo Alto’s ‘grassy knoll’ of rock and roll

Bo Crane, 67 — a Paly and Stanford grad — is giving a talk at Palo Alto Historical Association next month — their annual dinner — about rock and roll. He published a book or chapbook on such — maybe he used notes I sent him about more recent artists with roots here.

The Weekly had a blurb about CSPAN doing a segment on Palo Alto, or several, including one that featured six minutes of Bo, and some stills and a bit of footage that is likely not Lytton Plaza or El Camino Park, and so far about 300 views online.

Bo repeats the story about Jerry Garcia a music teacher at Dana Morgan Music on Bryant scratching away on a banjo in the alley and then Bob Weir of Menlo Park saunters by and the rest is history.

I call this the grassy knoll of rock and roll — or the psychedelic movement — in that he looks like he is talking about “back and to the left” in Oliver Stone or real life or Magruder. (I had never heard anyone say that Weir turned from Hamilton onto the alley, if that matters — I’ll have to replayto see if he was heading up or down, west or east before turning to the left or right to hear and meet Jerry).

A much better story and that much more recent and therefore plausible — and the principals are both living — and nearly lucid — is about how Gregg Rolie of Palo Alto met Carlos Santana after a police raid on a jam session or smoke out near Shoreline in Palo Alto.

The Dead or Bob and John Mayer and friends are playing next Friday and Sat at Shoreline and I am going if I can figure out where my electronic tickets are: Ticketmaster, Stubhub, AXS, who knows?

I’ll probably go to Bo’s show. I know him slightly from a men’s biking group I was briefly trailing — Bo is very fit and does know a lot of area bike paths, if that gives his view on rock any authority.

There’s a guy named Bernstein who used to book blues shows into a warehouse downtown and tour managed or roadied with Willie Nelson and wrote a chap book and spoke to PAHA (and then emailed me a few times back and forth). Andrew Bernstein, relative of my Gunn classmate and party-mate I think Steve Bernstein but not the slide trumpet player from Berkeley — he lived way up to Page Mill and in fact Andy Zenoff and Matt Maltz once rolled a musle car trying to race me and my new Chevy Camero down. Excuse the digression (Kudos to Matt for a winning season for Gunn softball, he leads).

And: in 2004 as publicist for an art gallery downtown showing his lithographs and drawings, I got mayor Bern Beecham to issue a mayoral proclamation about Jerry Garcia’s history here — actually April Higashi the jeweler and admin for the Jerry office had promised to donate a drawing or litho for display and sell us at printing cost the first known photo a print of Warlocks playing locally. That deal was force majeured when the gallery owner flaked out and cancelled my music series there – -and stiffed me on my cut of the Jerry take and I think bogarted the actual parchment document from COPA. (I had booked Steve Mule, Malcolm Welbourne Ethan Iverson, AJ Roach, Jack Walrath — John Ellis, of the Charlie Hunter Trio, got axed in the kerfluffle. )

Anyhow, Bern said he do it if Steve Staiger would verify my version of the story, and Steve showed both the Palo Alto registry of 1964 listing Jerry as a music teacher and a clipping from Palo Alto Times about the music teacher engaged to a debutante. Sarah.

And then: Steve and I enjoyed an exchange in which I would nominate people for the fictional so far “Palo Alto Rock and Roll Archive” including Ian MacKaye, Chris Appleton, Matt Flynn, Tommy Jordan, Maya Ford, Richard Marriott, Steve Jenkins, Hershel Yatovitz and Manny Moore.

I also spoke up at a Jerry Hill meeting (that Lenny Siegal attended) about putting a marker where Rolie met Santana.

I’d say Blink 182 for Earthday Rock and Bike at Cubberley Auditorium (cafeteria — library — childrens museum) for 150 kids for $6 or two-for-one solar powered is worth noting if “the beatles slept here” is.  Although by my own reasoning, I nominated running into to jazz man Josh Roseman at Printers Cafe as part of my 500 Palo Alto jazz tropes, itself a panel at PAHA (that featured Akira Tana, Seward McCain and Rebecca Coupe Franks, and filmed by Brian George).

Also: dribs and drabs: Social Distortion and Dead Kennedy’s at The Varsity.

I’d like to hear from: Gina Arnold, Danny Scher, Nick Dement, Stevie Nicks — played the Cub, as a high school, under a pre-Fleetwood band name or band per se.

A little choppy but: Randall Klein told me recently the roots of SFJazz is in an Oregon (jazz band) show he produced at The Varsity circa 1976.

Scher for his part –before booking the dead into frost and building Shoreline for BGP — booked Journey into the tri-school (Gunn-Paly-Cubberley) formal spring, 1979 but when I met him for the first time in 1995 16 years later he said his proudest palo alto moment or fondest memory was booking Thelonious Monk in Paly the month after MLK was killed.

and1: I’m still trying to verify (even for Plastic Alto) my claim that I saw JB Pritzker (future governor of Illinois) sing “If I Were A Rich Man” at Beth Am in 1975. Leah Garchik doesn’t believe me.

Oh: I saw Amy French of COPA at Coupa (!) today and apropos of Bo Crane I said she should be in the book.

andand: vintage Irving Penn of Dead and Jefferson at Pace in Palo Alto this spring


if you ask me, and you did not, but I have a blog, and witnesses, but AFI for 420 kids — ok, 412 — at The Cub, capacity 300 — is more epic than the Beatles Room at Crowne Plaza, which is silly. Which is like something I saw driving to Seattle via “Jefferson” rumors have it that Jack London slept here, but he did not.


About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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